But, really, this is no laughing matter. It's big business all around but lacking real leadership. The 51-year-old franchise has had many important dates in its history: The founding and early days of the 1960s, the building of championship and nearly Super teams of the late 1960s and '70s, the ownership changes along the way and the conference championship failures of the last 15 years. But three weeks from now could be the tipping point. It's time to quit tip-toeing around the date, Feb. 15, that everyone knows exists but many still believe will come and go without consequence. That's the day the Vikings would have to alert the NFL that it they are interested in exploring a move – not one from Minneapolis to St. Paul or Shakopee, rather a move out of a state that can't seem to get anything done.
After witnessing politicians shutting down the state government during the summer of 2011, it's little wonder that those "leaders" would be so passive on such an important economic and social issue as the Vikings' quest to leave the outdate Metrodome and find an NFL-worthy home.
The proposals have been plentiful – too plentiful, really. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak appears to have masterfully (you can't help but think that was part of his plan) muddied the churning waters when he brought three possibilities – none of them ideal – to the table when Ramsey County was busy working with the Vikings as a partner instead of an adversary.
First, there was the joke of a press conference the day before Ramsey County's presentation in May. Rybak touted Minneapolis as the city where the Vikings should remain, despite not having any cooperative plan in place with the Vikings. No, back then Rybak appeared more interested in reworking the finances of the Target Center and trying to somehow squeeze in a Vikings stadium. Details were short and supporters lacking, but he pressed on, eventually convincing enough players at the state level of politics to essentially ignore Ramsey County's plan when it to the Senate hearings on the issue.
When the deadline for proposals was due last week, Rybak touted the Metrodome site, mainly because it was the cheapest, even though he knew it would cost the team tens of millions (nearly $70 million, according to the Vikings' estimates) in lost revenues if they were forced to TCF Bank Stadium for three years during construction of a new stadium on the Metrodome site. And, while the overall cost of the project might have been cheapest, the Vikings' contribution to such a project certainly wouldn't have approached their $407 million commitment to the Ramsey proposal. To add to the comedy of the Metrodome site, Rybak touted the use of the armory as a pregame "staging area." While we're at it, let's incorporate an outdated soup kitchen for halftime concessions.
But the dome site wasn't the only entry with issues:
Basilica – This Linden Ave. option is also in Minneapolis, but it hasn't been studied enough to make any sure claims that it could work. And the Basilica of St. Mary's also has questions about how stadium traffic would affect its ability to hold Sunday services, as well as concerns about how the church structure would hold up during three years of construction on a stadium.
Arden Hills/Ramsey County – It offers the space, the surrounding development opportunities and it is the plan that would garner the most financial support from the Vikings. The ongoing concerns about cleanup costs to the old munitions plant became even less of an issue when a guaranteed cleanup cost was negotiated and the more recent suggestion from Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton that the site should be cleaned either way. Two big issues remain with the Ramsey County/Arden Hills proposal: The state is hesitant to even allow the county to enact a hospitality tax and, frankly, it's becoming more and more apparent that Minneapolis power brokers have the ears of the state politicians. The Senate panel participants seemed to give more time to individual citizens with localized (read: their individual best interest) concerns than they did members of the Ramsey County board.
Shakopee – While this could resurface in the future, the Shakopee plan was simply too late to the table with too few details. Racino is becoming an annual push-and-reject pattern, but Racino revenues don't have to be tied to the Shakopee proposal simply because a Shakopee stadium would be close to Canterbury Park. Certainly, the Mystic Lake tribal members would raise objections, but what if Mystic Lake saw opportunity instead of competition? Working to build a bigger entertainment district might actually help further enrich the million-dollar members of the tribe.
All of the proposals have their advantages and drawbacks, but it's looking more and more like the old football saying – if you have three starting quarterbacks you really have none. With numerous stadium options, the Vikings' position is actually getting worse. Back in May, when trends looked strongest for a Vikings stadium getting done, there was one cooperative plan in Ramsey County. Rybak and others have successfully diluted the pool of candidates.
If Feb. 15 is the day that the Wilf ownership group really starts applying the pressure – and it might be that time – it could be the date that stands bigger than any other in the history of the franchise. At that point, anyone squacking about an out-of-state billionaire moving a Minnesota icon should look elsewhere when trying to assign blame. Look no further than Minnesota's elect. They have delayed and denied for the last decade.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.