January 21, 2005
If you haven't had a chance to read Mr. Cheer or Die's great post from yesterday concerning gloom, despair, and agony, I suggest you get right over there and read it right now. It does a fantastic job of spelling out what the Vikings have been telling us for a good four years now, that they are falling further and further behind in revenues as compared to the rest of the NFL and that soon they will be unable to compete. We've already seen this with the departure of Linehan and the way he departed. The Vikings could simply not afford him and now he makes more than Mike Tice! He also alluded to the same thing Mike Kelly did when he left, that the Vikings are stagnating. Mr. Cheer or Die goes on to explain that it is only going to get worse:
There will be no significant free agent signings in 2005 and beyond. There will be no moving up to a Top 10 draft pick on Draft Day. Because there is no money to throw around.
There will be, instead, free agent signings that will be voiced as "significant" when in fact, the free agent is an oft-injured retread that the team wants to take a chance on because the guy signed a low-ball contract.
There will be, instead, the Vikes looking to trade out of their first round selection every year because they simply cannot afford to sign a first round rookie stud.
There will be, instead, unhappy coaches at Winter Park that are so below the league average on terms of salary that they need to pick up a second job.
We don't deserve this. We just don't. And who is to blame? As Mr. Cheer or Die points out, and I'm glad he did, it is my favorite whipping boys: the state legislature. I'll also throw in our governor, T-Paw as Barreiro likes to call him, and his complete lack of leadership towards this issue. Their inability to do anything of importance at all and their complete ignorance of the true will of the Minnesota people is simply stunning.
Here is what I think is hilarious, that the legislature thinks that they are doing the right thing by watching the Twins and Vikings wave goodbye, that they are somehow going to get thanked by the people of Minnesota for keeping our "priorities" at the forefront and sticking it to those billionaire owners. Please. The people of Minnesota are going to turn on them so fast it will make their heads spin. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when the ratings for the Viking/Packer playoff game came out?
Sunday's game also reached several national milestones. Its 18.4 national rating and 33 national share made it the country's top-rated and most watched television show of the week. It was also the most watched wild-card game on any network since 2000 and the most watched wild-card game on Fox since 1999.
Or how about this little tidbit:
At least 850,000 households locally and probably closer to 950,000 watched Sunday. The game also received a 75 share, meaning 75 percent of the televisions turned on Sunday afternoon in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area were tuned to KMSP (Ch. 9). The rating and share was easily the highest in the country, outdistancing second-place Milwaukee (46.1/67).
Ratings like these carry over throughout the whole state. The Vikings have consistently stated that on Viking gamedays 75% of the TVs in the state are tuned into the game. 75%!!!
Does the legislature really think that the people of the state are going to forgive them for letting this team get away? It will be a bloodbath, and let me tell you I will be one of the people leading the charge.
And what about the Twins? Do you remember the fan reaction to Victory Sports and the fact that it wasn't available on most cable or sattelite TV packages? It was one of outrage. Letters poured into the capitol at such a rate that our fine legislators actually modified the last stadium bill to stipulate that nothing gets built until the Twins are back on TV. Imagine what the outcry will be if the Twins are contracted or move to Las Vegas.
Our legislators are morons. As they sit and twiddle their thumbs and talk about "priorities" stadium costs continue to rise and rise. Check out this list of the costs of new stadiums and renovations from the early 90s:
Camden Yards: $235 million, 96% public subsidy from lottery proceeds
U.S. Cellular Field: $150 million, 100% public subsidy from hotel tax
Jacobs Field: $173 million, 88% public subsidy from alcohol, tobacco, and gate and concession tax
Comerica Park: $290 million, 50% public subsidy from hotel and car rental tax and casino revenue tax
Now a stadium costs at least twice as much as any of these. Any savings the legislature thought they could gain by trying to squeeze more money out the owners is rapidly disappearing. And did you catch the last funding source for Comerica Park? Casino revenue taxes. Here is a wonderful idea that the Native American tribes in this state have already said they are willing to be a part of. What does Pawlenty do? He continues to strong arm them and play bad cop by threatening to open a state run casino which will have the wonderful impact of tying state general fund dollars to casino revenues. What a great idea. Everyone get out there and play the slots so we can fund education because Pawlenty refuses to ... oh what is the use...
Morons. All of them. And they will pay. The sad thing is that we will also pay because it won't be long before we get another NFL or MLB team for twice as much and a stadium that costs twice as much. It is inevitable. It happened in Cleveland, it happened in Houston, it is happening in Washington D.C. right now.
I've said enough. Back to work.
Posted by snackeru at January 21, 2005 9:02 AM | Stadiums
"I would not only celebrate if a club this slimy and unprincipled left town, I'd go down to Winter Park and help load the U-Hauls for nothing. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say."
Are you crazy?? I can not take your faulty logic any longer. What is to be gained if the Vikings leave town? Will anything be better if you go down to Winter Park and help Red load the moving trucks? Will education better funded, senior citizens receive better health care, or will the roads in Minnesota suddenly improve? NO!!! Nothing is gained if the Vikings or Twins leave town; in fact, there is nothing even remotely positive in this scenario for the state of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. The only person who benefits is Red McCombs, who would make a ton of money by moving to LA. He would then probably sell the team a couple of years later, and make even more money (ala Norm "May He Rest in Hell" Green).
There will certainly be people like yourself and Ricky Rask who will claim a victory on moral grounds: "We held the line against the "slimy and unprincipled" team! Hooray for us!!" And after this feeling fades after about a week, we will all be left with nothing. The Vikings and the Twins are absolutely core to the nature of life in Minnesota. I grew up in the sticks in central Minnesota, where listening to (and now watching) the Twins was all we had during the summer. During the fall, my whole family hurried through Sunday lunch in order to catch the noon kick-off. The Twins and Vikes are as important to the quality of life in Minnesota as the 10,000 lakes. They bring joy and happiness (in spite of their economics or how they do on the field) to millions in this region. To lose them would be heart-breaking, especially due to some sort of misguided moral stance.
Ever since you first post, David, in which you declared yourself to be a Twins fan, I have never understood your logic in not supporting efforts to build a stadium. I know that the economics of professional sports are not ideal, but I don't give a damn. I simply want to drive down from this god-forsaken state twice a year to see the Twins and Vikings play. And I also want to watch them on TV, as my parents do and my grand-parents did.
If you don't want to be sullied by the "slimy and unprincipled" professional sports, maybe you should move to North Dakota. You would probably be able to buy a very, very nice house here in Grand Forks by selling your place in the Cities. We have no sports teams, and therefore nothing to damage your moral psyche. It is also god-awful boring, unless you want to go to the local bar and drink yourself silly. Every once in a while we'll have some sort of Norwegian folk artist come to town, which you could see perform at our one art gallery. If you are somewhat well-off, you can buy a lake cabin (once again in Minnesota) and drive there every summer weekend. Let me know if you're interested, I'll set you up with a good relator.
Curt in Grand Forks
Posted by: Curt Hanson at January 21, 2005 11:36 AM
"Compare that to other clubs like Indianapolis ($1.8 million in cap space), New England ($400k over the cap), and even the Packers ($3.4 million in cap space)."
Your argument, while impressive in length, falls short on merit. These teams have mortgaged their future to WIN NOW at all costs. The Vikes are setup to be financially sound for the foreseeable future.
Example One....As the San Francisco 49ers commence efforts to salvage the franchise from the depths of the NFL's basement, the Tennessee Titans soon could be the next organization on the road to multiple seasons of futility.
There's currently a dispute between G.M. Floyd Reese and coach Jeff Fisher regarding the direction of the franchise. Reese wants to part ways with several key veterans and rebuild; Fisher wants to stay the course.
They rode a strong wave for a couple of years by borrowing against the future and doing bad contracts that everyone knew would come back to haunt them. Guys like defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz benefited from having a team with a lot of good players, and he built a reputation and promoted the sh-t out of himself. Now the bill is due and he and others know to get while the getting is good.
Example Two: The Colts? Between Harrison and quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts have committed $57 million in bonuses and guarantees this year, for two players.
Maybe I'm missing something here, but there are 53 guys on the roster, and the Colts need to be able to put an adequate supporting cast around Manning and Harrison. With an average of $9.6 million per year in coin going directly to Harrison, it could be a challenge.
Next up for the Colts is running back Edgerrin James, who might have an eye on his native Miami as free agency approaches. Using the franchise tag on James would cost the Colts approximately $8 million in cash and cap dollars in 2005.
And while the Colts will have Manning, Harrison, and James together for at least one more year, it'll be very interesting to see how the Colts manage to paste together the rest of the roster with so much cap money going to only three players. Yeah, good luck.
The Packers? Big trouble in Green Bay. Look no further than here:
They all need to look at the playbook of Vikings Vice President of Football Operations, Rob Brzezinski.
Under Brzezinski's leadership the Vikings have eliminated their salary cap deficit and have transformed their salary cap position into a long-term competitive advantage, signed superstars like Moss and Daunte Culpepper to long-term contract extensions and constructed a plan in 2002, along with then newly named Head Coach Mike Tice, to return the Vikings to long-term on-field competitive excellence.
So David, you remind me of a person with a dollar burning a hole in your pocket...you just HAVE to spend it. Actually, you DON'T!
Which takes me 360 back to my argument. The team isn't about to spend its reserve when it isn't getting ANY income because it is at a distinct disadvantage because they aren't getting stadium and parking related revenue. The team has been trying to get a resolution...even offering up to pay for a large portion of it including contributions from the NFL itself. So where is the roadblock. You got it. The Capitol building in St.Paul.
Posted by: Brian Maas at January 21, 2005 11:58 AM
Brian, the Packers are not in as cap dire straits as you state. Yes, they will have salary cap cuts, but that is the case with most NFL teams. They have bloated contracts to 2 players that if cut, will save them 17M, not an awful situation to be in. To say that the Vikes are in position of on-field excellence for many years is a fallacous argument.
The Vikings have been quite under the cap for several years now and Red will not spend it to field a legitimate SB team. R.B. simply makes contracts that hit for the current year to make the Vikes compliant with the minimum cap, per the direction of Red. So no need to praise R.B. for something that he does by the direction of his boss. Red is running the team like a business, getting as much $ into his pocket with as little $ as he can into the investment. For the last 4 seasons this team has been 28-36, how is this good management of funds? The Vikings defense is horrible, has been for years, and Red will not spend the available $ to make it better. Add into this that since 2001, the only draft picks that have shown anything are Burleson and Williams (and Bennett when not hurt). So it's not like the Vikes are stocked with young talent.
I put the blame on Red. Yes, the Vikes need a new stadium, I'm not going to argue against that. However, that is mostly due to that the Dome is a horrible place for anything, even monster trucks. Red is not concerned with winning championships, just his bottom line.
Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at January 21, 2005 2:23 PM
Craig...me thinks this one would be best discussed over Oysters Rockefeller and a pint!
Yes, Red sucks. But do you actually think that any other owner would be spending at this point with no promise of a stadium? Take Glen Taylor, let's say he spends $600 mil for the team, then ponies up another $150 mil towards the stadium...do you really think he will then immediately run out and spend, SPEND, SPEND! Nope, because he will still be saddled with trying to make ends meet as the 31st ranked NFL team in terms of revenue.
As for the Pack. Take off those cheese-colored glasses. When a team has to start dumping players due to salary cap restraints....that's a signal. The only reason the Pack has been able to compete revenue wise?????
A renovated stadium!!!! That's what I'm saying. The Vikes need that kind of revenue stream before an owner will commit to spending. Look at New England pre Gillette and post. All about the revenue brother.
Red brought in Winfield last year. Huge aquisition. Right player, right time. That's all he was going to do given the financial handcuffs that have been place around him.
Posted by: Brian Maas at January 21, 2005 3:22 PM
I agree, oysters and a pint it is! Your treat of course.
Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at January 21, 2005 4:33 PM
"Ever since you first post, David, in which you declared yourself to be a Twins fan, I have never understood your logic in not supporting efforts to build a stadium. I know that the economics of professional sports are not ideal, but I don't give a damn."
Well, I do. Give a damn. I have written on more than one occasion that I'm willing to support a stadium that makes sense economically for both the teams and the public. Or, if the team wants all the benefit from the stadium, then they should build it themselves - if the team wants to build their own stadium, with the public kicking in a nominal amount for infrastructure and land improvements (like hooking up the site to water, power, and sewer and improving roads to handle the increased traffic), then the team can charge whatever the heck they want for tickets, concessions, etc., and I have nothing to say about it.
That's not what the teams want, though. The deal in Washington DC is teetering on the brink of collapse because the city council wants *half* of the money provided by private investors. MLB doesn't want that - private investors expect a return on their investment, but the public, according to MLB, can afford to just give money away for free. Sorry - if I'm a member of the public whose tax dollars are paying for a stadium, then *I'm* an investor in the stadium and I want my investment returned, too - and not just in possible Super Bowl and World Series rings.
Consider this analogy - years ago, the education system in this state was thought to be broken and in serious need of reform. Kids were graduating without job and life skills. Teachers were striking every few years for more wages and/or benefits. The property tax structure underlying education was widely seen as unfair and even extortionist, as the public was browbeaten time and again to go to the polls and vote for special levies. Remember those days?
That's exactly the state of MLB, the NHL, the NFL, and the NBA today - there's no accountability to the public, without whom there would be no enterprise. With one hand the leagues fight with their players' organizations, while the other is extended for another handout from the public under the threat of abandonment.
The thing is, we went in and reformed eduation. We fixed the tax system, we tried to repair the classroom problems. We did that because we saw that they're our problems - that these things aren't just in a vacuum that doesn't involve us. It hasn't been a perfect fix, and there's still some ways to go yet before we're done, but we at least started the process. Why can't we do the same thing with pro sports? Go to the teams and tell them, if you're going to rely on us for your revenue, then you're accountable to us for your efforts and results. Otherwise, pay for your own playgrounds and we'll show up to watch.
*That's* why I say I'd rather see the Vikings leave town than continue this abusive, broken system we're living with now. (And besides, do you really think Red's going to do better in LA? The last team that moved to LA moved right back to their old town again within a few seasons, remember?)
It's not even a question of 'sports or schools'. Even if all four 'major' pro teams left town, we'd still have Gopher hockey and basketball. And Gopher baseball, which is a pretty damned good program that doesn't get much respect. And we'd have the Saints, and much of the Northern League. And the Minnesota Monarchs.
And if these things don't interest you - if the only time you had any interest in going to see a Saints game was when Darryl Strawberry was here - maybe you're not so much a sports fan as a jock-sniffer, and maybe you shouldn't be the one making the decisions on how to spend my tax dollars.
Posted by: David Wintheiser at January 23, 2005 3:00 PM
"Maybe you're not so much a sports fan as a jock-sniffer"; I'll put my qualifications as a "sports fan" up against yours anyday, pal. And for the record I had no interest in going to see the Saints when Strawberry played for them, just as I have no interest in driving down to Fargo for a Red Hawks game. I only have interest, correctly or incorrectly, in MLB, the NFL, and major NCAA athletics. The fact that few people will remember or care about the final outcome of minor league sports completely turns them off for me.
I will again state that no one benefits if the MN legislature makes a stand versus the NFL and MLB. The stadiums can be built without using general revenue funds; outside of an owner deciding to pay for a stadium with his/her own funds, I don't know what else you can ask for. Was building the X a bad idea for St. Paul? How about the old Met which was responsible for bringing in the Twins and Vikings in the first place? Maybe we shouldn't have brough the Super Bowl to the Metrodome in 1991.
Pro sports team bring a collective sense of pride, importance, and togetherness to their communities; they provide direct and indirect employment to thousands of persons like beer and hot dog vendors, and waiters and waitresses. In most instances, they also bring in millions of dollars for events such as conventions and national tournaments. All of the above listed factors are overwhelmingly positive, and none of them would occur if all the Metro had were the St. Paul Saints or the Fighting Pike.
I believe this to be true because I have lived in several places without professional sports: Bloomington, Indiana, (then-home of Bobby Knight and IU Basketball); Cedar Falls/Waterloo, Iowa (which had some sort of minor league baseball), and Grand Forks, North Dakota (where the following of Fighting Sioux hockey probably tops Gopher hockey in the Cities). It is not anywhere near the same as what the Twins and Vikings mean to their fans and their community. Go ask a fan from Boston if the loss of the Red Sox could be off-set by UMass basketball!!
Finally, I should have no say in the spending of your tax dollars; after all, I live in the wrong state. Your head in the sand attitude toward the future of our sports teams, however, is enough to make me want to move back. If you are so happy with minor league sports, perhaps we can switch homes; you'll have plenty of minor college sports and minor league baseball teams to follow here in Grand Forks.
Curt in Grand Forks
Posted by: Curt Hanson at January 23, 2005 7:16 PM
Thanks for your comments Curt. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but I am in full agreement. And let me reiterate a point Curt made in his last comment, David. If the Minnesota legislature had the same views as you in terms of stadium opposition in the 1950s we would have never built Met Stadium. No Twins, no Vikings. If the legislature shared your views in the 1970s, we wouldn't have built the Metrodome. No World Series in 1987 or 1991. If Arne Carlson and Norm Coleman wouldn't have fought so hard in the 1990s, if they would have caved-in to the legislature's short sighted thinking, there would be no Xcel Energy Center. Can you honestly tell me that you are upset any of these places were built? Because I dare say if you aren't upset, then you are being a bit hypocritical. All of these places were built largely with public money.
I am also of the opinion that the public has received a very large return on their investment. I wouldn't trade the '91 World Series and the happiness it brought our state for any amount of money. Your myopic view on how much money the owners make in these deals is beyond me. I love the Twins and Vikings way more than I dislike any of their owners past, present, or future. Owners come and go, but the team is what people cheer for and remember.
Having said that, Minnesota has fought long and hard for the best deal possible and so far it has worked out. We've also concocted a ton of plans that wouldn't use general fund dollars or force the average citizen to contribute if they didn't want to. It is time to hammer a deal through, and, as you say, make sure it is one that works for both the teams and the public. I am sorry, however, that the only return on investment that you'll accept for the public is money, because I think having the Vikings and the Twins in our state gives us so much more.
Posted by: Shane at January 23, 2005 8:33 PM
Okay. I give. I see no reason to get into a contest of "qualifications" as to who's the bigger sports fan, but seeing comments like these...
"Pro sports team bring a collective sense of pride, importance, and togetherness to their communities; they provide direct and indirect employment to thousands of persons like beer and hot dog vendors, and waiters and waitresses."
"I am also of the opinion that the public has received a very large return on their investment. I wouldn't trade the '91 World Series and the happiness it brought our state for any amount of money."
...convinces me that there's no point in trying to put up a reasoned argument. Do you guys really think that three buildings at over a billion dollars is a fair price to give Wally the Beer Man a part-time job? I mean, Wally's cool and everything, but come on.
And sure, the '91 Series was nice - until Morris bolted for more money. The '87 Series was even better. But so was going back and watching my high school football team playing in the state championship after getting three wins in the three years I attended. Should we build a $500 million facility for Cooper High?
Was building the X a good idea? I don't know - how many games have you gone to this year? Wonderful engine for the city economy, ain't it? Wouldn't it be great if, after we agree to build a new Twins stadium and breaking ground on the site, MLB locked out its players? Again?
I suppose I shouldn't complain too much about lack of reason - logically, the situation is perfectly plain. The Twins and Vikes want free money, and the legislature doesn't want to give it to them. That's pretty much the whole argument, logically speaking. Either you're OK with that, or you're not. I'm not.
And sure, we can talk about 'getting creative' and trying alternative funding sources. But the reason the legislature isn't considering these things isn't the legislature's fault - they've already heard from the Twins and Vikes that the teams don't want stadiums under those terms. Why waste everybody's time with yet another proposal that we already know the Twins and Vikes won't accept? (The Gophers are in a different situation entirely, but they keep getting lumped in with them because...well, I'm not sure why. For the Gophers, a stadium isn't significantly different from a computer center or a student union. It's infrastructure, and has some connection to the University's mission. Anybody want to ask if the Twins will accept a $200 million technology center instead of a ballpark?)
You want to see progress on the stadium issue? Lobby the Twins. Lobby the Vikes. Tell them, 'we don't want you to leave, but if you're not willing to accept reality, to put up a significant private stake in a state where every other public expense is being slashed to the bone, then so long.' Call their bluff. They have no reason to negotiate in good faith if they know they can threaten a move or a contraction and watch sports fans all around the area go into spasms begging the legislature to throw money, any amount of money, at them to please, please stay.
If we can't be rational, can we at least be men?
Posted by: David Wintheiser at January 24, 2005 10:23 AM
This blog is pretty interesting, will add a bookmark, thanks.
Posted by: hooking at July 31, 2005 4:25 AM