I was a big supporter of the new Twins ballfield and the new Gophers football stadium. My support was based on purely selfish and aesthetic reasons: Baseball is meant to be played outdoors and college football should be played on campus. It was a mistake to move those teams into a domed stadium and felt that both should have their own place to call home. Also both those teams are close to my heart and allegiance so of course I wanted the best for them. It was especially frustrating for the Twins and almost every state/city was building a new, interesting ballpark for their team and the Twins were being left behind.
Also, while I understood and was sympathetic to the argument against public support of basically a private enterprise, that never entered into my support for these two teams. First of course, the Gophers are a public enterprise and deserve public support. However for the Twins, it basically came down to the fact that most other baseball markets had already decided that public support was appropriate for a ballpark. Basically the price of having major league baseball was public support for a ballpark. And given that the finance agreement for a new Twins ballpark was going to cost me probably less than $150 a year, it was well worth it.
That brings us to the Vikings. I've been pretty quiet about a new Vikings stadium. This has been for a couple of reasons. One, while I watch on Sundays, the Vikings rank below the Twins and Gophers in my opinion. Also, while not ideal, indoor football at the Metrodome for professional football is ok in my book. Finally given the dire financial situation the State is in, those complaints about public support have a little more resonance.
The Vikings of course are pushing hard for a new stadium. There is no argument that, when compared to other teams, the Metrodome is not professional football-worthy. Fan amenities are low and revenue generating opportunities are slim. The Vikings lease ends in 2011 and if something is going to happen, it needs to happen soon. Although I have to say, threats of moving to California are not that realistic.
Unfortunately $950 million for a stadium in this economic climate is really tough. So given the fact that I believe the Vikings need a new stadium, here are some criteria that I think the state should pursue when considering a new stadium:
1. The stadium should be enclosed, either through a retractable or permanent roof. I think football should be played outdoors, but 10 games a year is not enough activity to justify a Billion dollar investment. A roof allows the stadium to be used for concerts, trade shows, high school sports, etc. It will cost more, but will provide more public benefit.
2. Vikings need to contribute more of their own $$$. Right now the Wilfs are saying they will contribute $250M. That needs to increase. In fact from the Vikings own web site, they should new stadiums with owner contributions ranging from 50 to 30 percent. A minimal contribution of 1/3 should be negotiated, with 50% the goal.
3. Support needs to be statewide. Hennepin County took on the burden for the Twins, that can't/won't happen for the Vikings. Gambling is an easy way to pay for it. Taxes on hotels, taxis, sports jersey's etc., is another.
4. The stadium DOES NOT necessarily need to be located in downtown Minneapolis. Professional football seems more suburban in its fan base. If there is a suitable suburban location, the Vikings should pursue it. The failing Brookdale Mall area is a perfect location. Lots of transportation and utilities already in place. Also this is a part of the metro area that could use an economic shot in the arm.
With these criteria in place, I could support a new Vikings stadium. Over 2010, as this debate heats up, I will take a closer look at the Vikings stadium debate and hope to generate some discussion over this issue.
What do you think should be done about the Vikings and their need for a new stadium?