Vikings Stadium Vote Coming

The Vikings face another big stadium hurdle as the Minnesota Legislature nears another vote on whether to proceed with a Vikings stadium plan.

Stadiums in the NFL are nothing new to the landscape of public debate. Look around the league and you'll see that more than two-thirds of the league either is playing now or will be playing in stadiums less than eight years old within the next season or two.

The Metrodome is a dinosaur -- a 20-year old facility built simply to placate the Vikings from a hideous football stadium in Bloomington in which both teams had to line up on the same sideline and the best seats in the house were left field baseball bleachers without backs or arm rests.

Vikings owner Red McCombs has a point about the revenues that are generated by other stadiums, things that weren't even a consideration when the Metrodome was built. Named after political figure Hubert H. Humphrey, McCombs has never made an effort to re-name the stadium to collect millions in rights revenue each year. He has taken the high road in the process, but Monday's vote could change that tune.

The patience on a stadium issue is running thin with McCombs. While many in Minnesota can't buy the logic behind a billionaire wanting funding for a stadium, many of these same people have suddenly made getting a Twins stadium a community-based war cry. This from the same Twins that, in 82 games, were outdrawn by the Vikings in 10 home dates more than once during the 1990s.

While the debate is less of an issue outside Minnesota, those who know McCombs know that he has made a sincere effort to get a stadium deal done and, if it fails this time around at the State Legislature and the pool of NFL money -- about $150 million worth between the NFL and the Vikings -- dries up in the belief that a deal won't get done, the Vikings will have impetus to leave Minnesota.

Hopefully, legislators will realize that the Vikings have as much or more value to the state than the Twins have -- in player-generated tax revenue to the allegiance of fans. With any luck, that realization will come before it's too late. The Vikings won't get contracted, but they may get relocated.

* In curiously timed stadium news, VU has been clued to the fact that Monday Denver billionaire Phillip Anschutz will be meeting with Los Angeles officials about building a downtown football stadium. L.A. has been without a team since 1994 and, as the second largest TV market, it is viewed as a prime spot to move a franchise since expansion is over for the forseeable future. Anschutz has made no bones about wanting to lure a team to a privately-funded stadium and plans to put one in place to have as a carrot to dangle to an owner looking to sell, which could play well for McCombs if he wants to sell the Vikings.
* Robert Griffith was named to the NFL Players Association executive committee. Ironically, he replaces another former Viking -- retired RB Robert Smith, who had served on the committee.
* David Levine, the agent for Cincinnati DE Reinard Wilson, continues to drop the name of the Vikings (along with Indianapolis and Chicago) as teams interested in signing Wilson away from the Bengals. When asked about free agent plans, Mike Tice made no mention of Wilson and even gave the indication that early talks with him were fruitless. Whether it's a motive for Levine to try to up the ante with legitimate suitors or not, it seems strange that Levine keeps bringing the Vikings into the mix when it looks like their need at DE has diminished since the signing of Kenny Mixon. Even if he were signed, Wilson would be a part-time pass rusher, which isn't what he is seeking.
* The Vikings continue negotiations to try to bring in kick returner David Allen of the 49ers. The team is said to like what they've seen of Allen and hope he can give the special teams a spark in the return game.
* In an interesting note to those in the business world, the NFL issued a statement this weekend saying that it itends to retain the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen as the league's bookkeeper. The firm has come under considerable heat recently as the company that shredded thousands of documents related to another client -- Enron -- and the scandal that ensued when the company went bust and took the life savings of thousands of employees. While the NFL is nowhere near having financial hardship, the vote of confidence for the Andersen Co. comes at a time when confidence in the firm itself is sorely lacking.
* With the signing of Corey Chavous, the Vikings are still $11.5 million under the salary cap and have room to sign several more players -- either now or after the draft. Signings after June 1 start counting toward the 2003 salary cap, where the Vikings could find themselves with almost $18 million in available cap money -- which will likely go down when Daunte Culpepper is signed.

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