Yesterday, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission approved a resolution designed to reward the Minnesota Vikings if they extend their lease in the Metrodome past its current date of expiration in 2011 and penalize them if they choose not to. The measure plans to charge the Vikings a previously waived $4 million in rent if they do not sign a lease extension, and it has led to owner Zygi Wilf and president Mark Wilf severing ties with the commission.
Only 6 of the National Football League’s 31 stadiums are older than the Metrodome, which opened in 1982, and one of those, Giants Stadium, will be replaced for 2010 with a new stadium costing about $1.6 billion (while a new Vikings stadium would cost under $950 million). In the Wilfs’ letter to the Commission, they point out that they have some of the lowest revenues in the NFL and “have the most uncompetitive stadium deal in the NFL.” The state’s frugality should not prevent the Vikings from becoming as financially competitive with the rest of the league as they are on the field this season.
It’s time for the state to acknowledge what the Vikings have done for the state of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis and stop their attempts to force the Vikings to continue to play at what is widely considered one of the NFL’s worst stadiums. Over the years the Wilfs have sought to put an entertaining product on the field, signing big-name free agents like Jared Allen and Brett Favre in the past several years, as well as drafting entertaining athletes Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. The team has the third best record in the NFL this season at 8-1. The fans’ excitement should be allowed to translate into revenue for the team, but because of a lack of expensive club seats and private boxes in the Metrodome, as well as an old stadium that does not attract fans, the Vikings miss out on much of that potential revenue.
By penalizing the Vikings for not extending their lease, the state is ignoring the financial benefit the Vikings bring (including tax revenues from bringing crowds and tourists into Minneapolis to spend money) as well as alienating the owner and president of the Vikings. Yes, this is a recession, and yes, the state should be careful about how it spends its money, but refusing to invest in physical capital for something as beneficial to the state as a professional football franchise will only continue financial problems into the future, especially if the team is eventually pushed to the point of moving. Though the Wilfs have said publicly that they don’t have plans to move the team from Minnesota, actions like the one the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission has taken will only jeopardize the team’s willingness to stay and work with the state of Minnesota. The Twins and the Gophers have both gotten new stadiums built for them; it’s time to let the Vikings have the same opportunity.
Eric Murphy welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.