The game of Russian Roulette being played by the State of Minnesota and the Vikings has been getting more and more intense as the deadline toward the expiration of the team's lease at the Metrodome approaches without the financing for a new stadium in place.
It's clear the Vikings want to stay in Minnesota. It's clear that the residents of Minnesota view keeping the team in Minnesota as a priority. It also seems clear that the NFL wants the Vikings to stay in Minnesota. The Vikings have as strong a fan base as just about any franchise in the league. They've sold out every game at the Metrodome since 1998. The NFL wants a team in Los Angeles, but would rather have a franchise that hasn't been able to energize its local fan base like Jacksonville, which plays in front of crowds with thousands of empty seats.
Perhaps there is a solution that could help sway timid Legislators who consider it a bad idea to use state money to cover 30 percent of the stadium costs. The solution? Promise Minnesota that the NFL will bring a Super Bowl back to the state if they build a new stadium.
It wouldn't be without precedent. One of the reasons the Vikings have had very little in the way of leverage in a stadium debate is that they not only have a lease that runs through the end of the 2011 season, but state lawmakers got a pledge in writing from then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle that the Vikings wouldn't leave Minnesota during the 30 years the Metrodome lease would be in effect and, if they did somehow marshal the votes among other owners to leave Minnesota for greener pastures, the NFL would guarantee another franchise in Minnesota (a relocated team or an expansion franchise) within two years. The NFL put pen to paper and made its promise to keep the NFL in Minnesota as a guarantee that the investment that was being made in hastily building the Metrodome would pay off. Why not go to that well once again?
Such a guarantee isn't anything new. Stadiums in Arizona and Dallas were built with a similar promise and an outdoor Super Bowl in New York was promised when the Giants and Jets built their new stadium at the Meadowlands.
The initial plan of the Wilfs was to build an open-air stadium to keep costs down. That plan was almost immediately shot down by the state, because it intends to use the facility for non-Vikings uses that would include events during the times of year that weather isn't friendly in Minnesota. As a result, a roofed stadium – whether a fixed roof or a retractable roof – became the only viable option. From the perspective of getting a Super Bowl guarantee, the NFL would need the same guarantee that the state demanded because there is no chance the NFL would put its centerpiece game in a stadium where temperatures the first week of February are annually among the most brutal in the state.
Chicago will never host a Super Bowl. Green Bay couldn't handle a Super Bowl simply due to the lack of hotel space needed. However, Detroit has hosted the Super Bowl because, when Ford Field was built, the promise was made that the Super Bowl would come to town.
The numbers differ greatly on the economic impact of having the Super Bowl in a city. On the low end, estimates are at about $200-250 million. On the high end, some estimates are that the number is closer to $500 million. The 2009 Super Bowl in Miami is credited with making a $300 million impact in that region. It has been determined that direct spending of those who come to a city for a Super Bowl is $1,200 per person. Keeping in mind that the Super Bowl is its own type of Woodstock – people show up throughout the week and most of them don't actually go see the game – the spending extends far beyond the 60,000 or so who have tickets for the big game.
If the NFL truly wants the Vikings to stay in Minnesota, it could be as simple as a promise to bring a Super Bowl to Minnesota at some point. It wouldn't happen right away, but that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. If the Arden Hills site is selected, having five or six years of lead time would allow for the development that would take place around the stadium to be completed and, in its own way, would help out Minneapolis, Hennepin County and the entire Twin Cities metro area.
When the Super Bowl came to Minnesota in 1991, hotel rooms were booked not only throughout the Twin Cities, but as far away as Rochester and St. Cloud. Hotel owners were able to jack up prices for rooms for the week of the Super Bowl because they knew that the need would be such that if someone blanches at the thought of spending $200-300 a night for a $79.99 room, there will be plenty of others that won't.
Minneapolis would reap tens of millions of dollars into its local economy because the city is loaded with hotel rooms, restaurants, stores and night clubs that would see a spike in business as the "beautiful people" arrive. Hennepin County would generate millions in tax revenue because, while Minnesotans are accustomed to having the Mall of America in Bloomington (on the site of Metropolitan Stadium), outsiders remain amazed at the sheer size of the mall and it is one of the state's top tourist attractions. When you have people with millions of dollars to spend in the city hosting the Super Bowl, the M.O.A. would reap the harvest. St. Paul will see a boom in business during that week. The entire seven-county metro area would benefit.
Seeing that most analysts view the minimum economic impact from the Super Bowl to be around $250 million (a number that will only rise in the future), Minnesota could recoup a big portion of its financial commitment to a stadium with that one single event.
While it is unclear whether the NFL would make such a commitment to bring the Super Bowl back to Minnesota, a promise to do so at some point could be the tipping point in stadium funding negotiations.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Holler: Super Bowl has $200M-plus benefit
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