Stadium Non-Issue...Now

The Vikings have a proposal for a state-of-the-art stadium, but it will need support from the State Legislature. The matter wasn't even discussed in the 2007 session and, considering the political climate, will have a tough time being discussed in 2008. With a lease that expires in 2011, the clock is ticking.

In Minnesota, when it comes to the term "special session" the sad reality is that there is nothing special about it.

For the uninitiated, the term derives from the State Legislature finishing its business on time. In the last 12 years, a "special session" hasn't been needed only once – making the "non-special session" truly special and the actual "special session" truly ordinary.

But as the 2007 session of the State Legislature nears its anticipated ending, not only is it unlikely that it will close on time with the collective business completed, there has been absolutely no talk of a Vikings stadium deal.

Why is that important? It's an odd-numbered year.

If a Vikings stadium deal was going to get passed, it more than likely would have been in an odd-numbered year…at least in Minnesota. In the next legislative session, every member of the House of Representatives is up for re-election, as is half the Senate. When forced to face the electorate, politicians will do very little to rock the political boat. Voting in favor of a stadium proposal that potentially asks for $500 million or more from the public trough is a hard sell. Not so much in the Twin Cities, where the benefit of having professional sports is more immediately felt, but in what is referred to as "Greater Minnesota" – where kicking in for a stadium is considerably less palatable – stepping up and showing support for a Vikings stadium proposal is akin to political suicide.

The chances of a Vikings stadium deal getting through in 2008 are slim and anorexic. The team's lease on the Metrodome runs through 2011, but much of the urgency on a stadium deal was tied into an agreement with Anoka County – which was willing to throw about 350-large into the future. Unlike other pro sports, the NFL makes money, it doesn't lose it. Considering that NFL players are, by and large, in a 40-plus percent income bracket, with a $109 million salary cap for 2007, the state income taxes from players alone would conservatively be placed at $15-20 million a year – not taking into account all of the other people employed in some capacity by the team. Add them in and a stadium effectively pays for itself.

But that's not happening this year. And, quite possibly, not next year either. Beyond 2008, there is no guarantee that there will be an available alternate site for the Vikings to build a new stadium. The Wilfs have pledged that the Vikings will stay in Minnesota. But, if they're asked to foot the tab alone, who could blame them for doing the sound business choice? It's time for the legislators to ask the question of whether they want to keep a grip on the one professional sport that, for the foreseeable future, will continue to guarantee profitability? If not, they will wave goodbye to millions in revenue transferred to another state.

A stadium deal can get done next year, but, if you are a gambler, don't put the hard money on it. Beyond 2008, it's a wide open landscape and one that doesn't favor Vikings fans.

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