Holler: Dust-up over luxury suite tickets by the MSFA is overblown

The uproar over the use of freebie tickets by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority isn't so much a scandal as much ado about very little.

The biggest non-story of 2016 has morphed into a front-runner for 2017 – not because it doesn’t warrant examination and criticism, but because it is so hypocritical.

On Tuesday, a non-partisan report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor James Nobles was released citing multiple violations of ethics and state law by the members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Association (MSFA) as it pertained to tickets for events at U.S. Bank Stadium, specifically Minnesota Vikings games.

That resulted in news media members getting credentialed for Vikings games – ironically similar that what the MSFA officials were found guilty of doing by getting into an event for free.

Much of Tuesday was spent with mid-level Republicans screaming scandal, Michele Kelm-Helgen slow-talking her way to respond and Gov. Mark Dayton staunchly defending the accused.

The greatest thing about this, to steal a line from a former ink-stained wretch, is a kerfuffle is the hypocrisy of the high horses both the accused and the defenders have been lifted onto by others with more strength – both of physicality and character.

Classic Minnesota politics!


In many ways, Minnesota Nice is masked by Minnesota Passive Aggression. Our indignant nature gets called into question far too often. When someone else is caught in what clearly looks to be a transgression of cultural protocol, Minnesotans dog-pile like few others.

What is the core issue at hand? The MSFA got a sweet perk as part of its overseeing of the stadium process, as well as the other stadiums/facility construction/improvement that was all part of the stadium bill that is so often recited for the state’s contribution. It got comped suites to the stadium.

These aren’t just nosebleed seats, where many working-class Minnesotans who wanted to see the new stadium were forced to sit due to their relative affordability. Word has it there are carving stations in those suites. Getting entre there was getting beyond the velvet rope.

Minnesota is famous for many things. One that the locals know about is getting free entrance into events. Whether a concert, a sporting event, theatre tickets or free admission into a local fish fry, Minnesotans love their freebies and aren’t shy about accepting them.

In the case of the luxury suites earmarked for the MSFA, there has always been a little bit of a bone of contention as to how they would be used. The line thrown out was that they would be used to promote the stadium with big-wig business contacts, greasing the wheels to get business done by allowing high-end movers and shakers to enjoy the new stadium from the best seats in the house – at the least ones with the best amenities.

But, this in Minnesota.

What happened? Those in charge of allocating the tickets gave an inordinate amount of tickets to friends and family. In the 100-page report done by the Legislative Auditor’s Office, it was determined that a little less than half of the seats allotted to the MSFA were given to those for whom they weren’t intended – 158 were listed as being given directly to family and friends and another 35 were viewed as being a stretch to fit the intended use. Those are pretty big numbers considering that the story broke during the season and shut off that ticket pipeline quickly when it did.


Was there widespread corruption that took place? No. But, to hear some legislators speak Wednesday, one would think that the MSFA was committing heinous crimes against the state and lining their own pockets with tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

The reality was that some in the MSFA wanted to impress their friends and family by spreading out their tickets in-house. While a lapse in judgment, it would seem that once again, the issue means a lot more to the media and soap-box-climbing politicians looking to make names for themselves by stopping government corruption and wasteful government spending.

The reality lies somewhere in between the criminal activity being suggested by some and the tacit loyalty displayed by Dayton, who seemed to excuse their actions completely.

It wasn’t as if the MSFA stole the tickets or resold them for a profit (Mike Tice-style). They gave away their free tickets to those who would enjoy seeing a game – even if they weren’t anywhere close to being the people the suites were intended to house.

In Minnesota, the air is thin up on a sanctimonious high horse and consequences are being sought for those who dared give away tickets to family and friends. In the bigger picture of things, this is much ado about nothing in terms of abuse of power by political entities, but, in Minnesota, we love a juicy scandal just about as much as we love a Juicy Lucy and we won’t let the relative insignificance of the crimes being alleged to get in the way.

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