Sunday Slant: A decade of stadium defeats

A look back at a 2001 stadium proposal shows just how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. Stadium studies and proposals have been done ad nauseam, but the procrastination price tag just continues to escalate.

The NFL lockout provided one benefit. Finally, a chance to thin the paper pile atop an ever-rearranged desk.

Gum wrappers and receipts were part of the treasures thrown away to avoid being the feature on a "Hoarders" episode, but digging through the drawers of a filing cabinet drove home just how long the Vikings have been searching for a new stadium. It came in the form of a plain white folder with the following words taped to the outside: "Minnesota Football: New Stadium Study."

By now, the study wasn't "new" at all. It involved a joint stadium for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Vikings. The government resolution to study the stadium possibilities was dated March 29, 2001. For more than 10 years, the Vikings have been part of the political conscience, but the Minnesota Gophers got their separate, smaller, outdoor stadium on their campus. The Minnesota Twins' miraculously recovery from self-induced contraction came only after politicians made getting them a new stadium a priority.

But 10 years later, the Vikings remain thwarted at seemingly every turn, making it uncertain where they will play their games five years from now. They are hoping to finally get that resolved in a special session in the coming days and with a governor that finally appears to be on their side. Yet, they could just as easily be shut out of the special session they were thought to be in just days ago.

The financials of a potential deal are known: About a $1.1 billion price tag, with the Vikings committing at least $407 million, Ramsey County contributing $350 million and the state capping its contribution at $300 million. But how much has a decade of procrastination cost the Vikings and the state?

A look at the 2001 study revealed some sadly entertaining figures:

  • By 2003, the study said, 26 of the 32 NFL were playing in either newly constructed or significantly renovated stadiums from the previous decade.

  • All the same funding sources were being considered back in 2001: government bonds, ticket and hotel taxes, lottery revenues and "sin taxes."

  • But the figure that stood out the most: Back then, the average NFL stadium of the past 10 years was $328 million.

    For about that amount of money, the Vikings and Gophers could have had a shared stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. It would have been a 68,500-seat stadium that could have constricted to 50,000 for college game days. Now, the Gophers have a smaller stadium with parking that won't accommodate NFL needs, leaving the Vikings to seek their own stadium that will cost almost three times as much as it did 10 years ago, although the current proposal calls for a retractable roof and far more parking in the more wide open spaces of Arden Hills.

    There was also a quote provided in that Vikings release: "We are working in earnest with policymakers during the current legislative session to find the best football stadium financing solution. The Vikings want to be part of public-private partnership that relies heavily on proceeds from stadium-related user fees and does not increase the tax burden of the average Minnesotan."

    That easily could have come from Lester Bagley, the Vikings' current vice president of stadium development/public affairs. Instead, it was from Mike Kelly, the executive vice president of the team back in 2001 who has long since been gone from the purple scene.

    Since those days a decade ago, there have been proposals for a new stadium in Anoka County, at the Metrodome site, at the Farmers Market site in Minneapolis and now in Ramsey County. The Vikings have been consistently valued at the bottom of the league in Forbes' annual studies while committee after committee has been formed to study the idea. Millions have been spent in research and yet a new Vikings stadium has never even come to vote.

    That could happen finally in the coming days or months. But after more than 10 years have passed, executive personnel and ownership have turned … and the price has nearly tripled. Will the impending special session of the Minnesota government finally be special for the Vikings?

    You can bet the Vikings are hoping history doesn't repeat itself, again.


  • Who would have thought after Adrian Peterson's comments about the lockout being like "modern-day slavery" that he would be a voice of reason and perspective in the NFL's labor talks? And that his comments would be made to gossip show TMZ, no less. "You never get what you want, but you can get close to it," Peterson told TMZ last week. "So I'm sure that's what it's going to end up being."

    Those words could be true for the lockout, the stadium situation or even player contracts.

  • Here's a common refrain torn from Twitter: "Metrodome gets roof back. It would be less costly to keep the Vikings there. Why do they need a new venue at taxpayer expense?" The answers are many, but essentially the Vikings can't compete with the rest of the NFL financially because of the limited income streams at the Metrodome. Observers also need to realize that the vast majority of the costs in replacing the Metrodome roof came from insurance, so there weren't taxpayers footing that bill.

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