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May 16, 2006

Time for Finstad to drop the hammer

Sorry for the delays in my reports, everyone. When you have three kids and a wife, plus a sunny day and a couple of lawns to mow, time seems to rapidly go away. I only watched the last half hour of the conference committee, but from what I saw of the committee they didn't make much progress. And by "progress" I mean finally splitting the bill and focusing on the Twins alone. Mike Opat spoke towards the end saying that Hennepin County has done a lot of work towards getting a new Twins ballpark in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, and their plan deserves a vote. Amen to that. Steve Kelley then made the claim that Andy Westerberg, the House sponsor of the Vikings bill, has done a lot of work too, and that his needs deserve consideration. I would have to say I disagree at this point.

The Twins and Hennepin County have a rock solid plan. You may not agree with the specifics, but the Twins and Hennepin County negotiated every aspect of the proposal and came up with a relatively simple, extremely tight plan to build a new ballpark. No state money, a third of the money from the Twins and the rest from the county in the form of a .15% general sales tax. Simple. The Twins bill that passed the House only has minor modifications. On the flip side, the Vikings and Anoka County still haven't agreed on if there should be a roof, or who should pay for it. Give me a break! The plan isn't ready. In fact, new plans seem to pop up everyday.

Here comes another one. According to Aron Kahn of the PiPress:

The new plan, to be unveiled today, is expected to include a user fee, possibly for spectators or businesses that benefit from the stadium. But state funds, albeit at a lower level, would still be needed to help pay for a retractable roof.

So, we've got yet another Vikings plan for the conference committee to consider while the Twins and Hennepin County are left to again wonder when their plan will be heard. One thing I will agree with Sen. Kelley on is that it would make a whole lotta sense to get a Vikings bill done this year in order to save time and money. But I seriously wonder, does Kelley have the votes? The conference committee could talk about the Vikings plan forever, but does Kelley have the votes to pass a bill out of the House and the Senate, and one that will probably call for state funds? I would have to say that from where I am sitting the answer is no.

At the end of the conference committee meeting last night, the Vikings agreed to come to the meeting today with a concrete plan. As David has already pointed out in a comment below, Finstad seems to be getting a little upset with Kelley's insistence that they spend so much time on the Vikings. It appears that the conference committee has the votes to override Kelley's delays and finally move on the Twins ballpark plan. I think it is time for Finstad to make a power play and shift the focus of this committee away from the Vikings and on to a bill that actually has a chance of passing.

The committee will meet again after the House and Senate floor sessions today. My guess is that it will be sometime in the afternoon, probably between 1:00 and 2:00.

Thoughts anyone? I must admit that it pains me to write stuff like this. I love the Vikings. I absolutely love them. But I think it is time to be realistic. Time is running out, and the specifics of a plan to build a Vikings stadium are not ready. Having said that, if Kelley can pull something off I would be highly impressed. My only hope is that at a bare minimum they get a Twins stadium done. Here is hoping they don't screw it up.

Posted by snackeru at May 16, 2006 10:27 PM | Stadiums 2006


Sorry, oh great blogmaster, but I disagree completely with your post. The Vikings are this area's most popular sports team by far, and they deserve an extra day or two to get their plan in order. It makes no sense to revisit this issue next year, when giving the Vikes and Anoka County a little extra time could result in their plan passing as well. Obviously Zygi is trying to capitalize on the (eventual) success of the Twins and Gophers stadiums, and I really hope that he is successful. Why make the Vikings come back next year when it can be taken care of this year? Skol Vikings!

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at May 17, 2006 8:20 AM

Ha! Well, like I said above, I would be very impressed if Kelley can pull this off, but I don't think he has the votes. If he does pull it off, though, I would be thrilled. Skol Vikings indeed!

You better watch it, too! Syttende Mai you know. The Hanson pogrom committee won't look too kind on your disagreeing with me ...

Posted by: Shane at May 17, 2006 8:25 AM

Awesome job on your site. I have been checking it everyday...I wish I had known about it for the last three years as I have been following this issue for 10 years. My frustration with the process is only exceeded by my passion for the teams to stay in Minnesota.

I agree completely with your take today. This is not about which team is more popular. If the Vikings want to get a stadium, they should get out of the way, watch the Twins get theirs, and then come back in 2007 touting a rock-solid proposal with no State money. They will be able to point to the Twins getting the same deal and ask only that they be treated equally. It would pass just one year from now. The fact that the Vikings are not getting along with their stadium partner and that they have put the Twins stadium is jeopardy is bad business. If no pro stadiums are passed, it will be the Vikings fault, and they will have no hope of a new stadium anytime in the near future. I understand that Zygi wonders why the threat of the Twins moving is giving them traction, and the fact that he isn't threatening to move is holding his proposal back. But, as you point out, his plan has too many holes, is far too complicated, and doesn't have the votes to pass the House anyway. The Vikings don't deserve any more time. I am a huge Vikings fan too, but once they start to hurt the proposal for the Twins, it's hurting them as well.

Posted by: Derek at May 17, 2006 8:39 AM

Who has the gavel at today's conference Committee? Does that matter or not?

Posted by: freealonzo at May 17, 2006 8:54 AM

For the record, I rarely disagree with you (except on musical tastes and the value of Denny Hocking as a Minnesota Twin). And I didn't even know it was Syttende Mai until you brought it up. I may have to go picket at the Sons of Norway or something...

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at May 17, 2006 9:35 AM

It's easy for me to say that the Twins bill (House version) should go forward and the Vikings need to take a deep Brooklyn (wait-til-next-year) breath and have a solid proposal ready to go then. That matches my personal sentiments perfectly. A football league that can't see a value in Greg Eslinger must have a steroid problem, or at least weight-control issues! The fact that that a bleeds-purple guy like Shane comes to the same conclusion about the relative merits of plans for the two stadiums speaks volumes for his credibility and integrity. He obviously isn't jumping on the bandwagon of any proposal that gives his team a new playground.

Posted by: oldstuffer at May 17, 2006 9:53 AM

Shane is absolutely right on! Let's get the bill
divided TODAY! and get the TWINS part shipped to
the full Senate for a vote ! Also,your right about
FINSTAD. He needs to tell Kelley that there aren't
the HOUSE votes for the VIKINGS plan(s) and that
we're running out of time !
Also,Freealonzo, Kelly has the gavel today ! and
Shane, the conference committee meets as,really,
TWO SEPARATE committees,a HOUSE committee and a
SENATE committee! They take SEPARATE VOTES as individual committees on all the proposals that make up the final bill. That means that NO CHANGE
in the bill can happen unless at least 3 members
FROM EITHER side agree to it!

Posted by: jimj at May 17, 2006 10:40 AM

"The fact that that a bleeds-purple guy like Shane comes to the same conclusion about the relative merits of plans for the two stadiums speaks volumes for his credibility and integrity."

I'm not at all commenting on Shane's "credibility and integrity," because he has both of those. But Shane would support the Vikings plan "if it had the votes." He just wants to bring the bandwagon back next year. If Kelley's three stadium metro tax plan had the votes, Shane would support that as well.

"He obviously isn't jumping on the bandwagon of any proposal that gives his team a new playground."

Then he'd be Sid Hartman.

Shane, have you opposed any of the Twins stadium plans in the past years? Have you been convinced before that the Twins would leave if [insert plan du jour] had not been passed? I don't know the answer to those questions, but they would seem to shed more light on "oldstuffer's" post than your position on this year's "not enough votes" Vikings plan.

For those like "ALL CAPS" (a/k/a jimj) who want legislators and others to state clear positions on these plans (I agree with you on that jimj), why is the conference committee taking "voice votes" on Kelley's metro tax plan, rather than a recorded vote?

Posted by: TimK at May 17, 2006 11:14 AM

If I had taken the time to think my post through more carefully, I would have focused it less on Shane's credibility and integrity (he knows he has those qualities; he doesn't need my endorsement) and said that it spoke volumes to me -- and should to others who read this site -- that ardent supporters of both teams see a significant chasm between the proposals for the two stadiums, particularly as regards their ready-for-prime-timeness and likelihood of supporting votes in the legislature. The value of this site is that many participants have been willing to raise the level of discourse above "I want" rantings.

Posted by: oldstuffer at May 17, 2006 12:12 PM

I agree with Shane. I'm a huge Vikings fan too, but they need to bow out of this now. They say they've been discussing this with the county for two years, yet they've presented 3 different plans in the last week.

The sudden move to go without a roof was selfish on the part of the Vikings. They saw they're plan was in trouble and basically bailed on Anoka county. This plan does not make sense for the county unless they have the roof. Ziggy's offer to develop the rest of 'Northern Lights's if fine, but if he didn't do it, someone else would.

They need to bow out, let the Twins bill pass, and come back next year with a plan that has a roof and no state money. If they do, the legislature will have no justifiable reason to say no to them if they've passed the Twins bill this year.

If they persist as they are now, all they are going to achieve is causing the committee to run out of time and getting no stadiums for anyone. Then when they come back next year, they'll either still be in line behind the Twins, or the Twins will be gone. That probably would get them a stadium, only at a horrible cost to the state and alienation of a huge part of thier fan base.

Posted by: David H at May 17, 2006 12:35 PM

I think David H said it about as good as it can be said.

Posted by: freealonzo at May 17, 2006 1:08 PM

As the Vikings self-proclaimed preeminent fan, I'm going to leave you all gobsmacked. (And for all the Wisconsite's who were unable to finish the 4th grade, 'gobsmacked' is British for "utterly astonished or astounded")

While I do not advocate Zygi totally concede his goal of getting his stadium funding this year (as Sviggum said a few days ago, "these many pro-stadium votes may never be here again"), I certainly think he needs to yield to the Twins in this matter. For if no stadium resolution is reached....period...Zygi might as well paint a bulls-eye on his back. And hell, even Red McCombs will have enjoyed a longer honeymoon period!

And here's my astonishing statement: I think the NFL should be the one ponying up the money to close the current financial gap between what Anoka County and Zygi have so far pledged to cover the extra expenses of retractable roof and infrastructure. No other money should come from the state, period.

Why? The soon-to-be-Super-Bowl-Champion Minnesota Vikings will play no less than 10 home games a year and no more than 12 when one includes playoffs. That is a lot of moola for a 10-date sports arena. (I do not, and will not, count tractor pulls and motocross races as ‘events’.)

Compare that to a minimum of 81-home dates for the batting-practice-throwing Twins.

Furthermore, the National Football League is a cash-cow. Sports own version of “socialism? shares its overall revenue so well that each and every NFL is virtually guaranteed to have some money in the black at the end of each season.

And what is one of Zygi's rallying cries? "We'll bring a Super Bowl game to Minnesota."

Fine and dandy. I'd love it, having attended Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta as a Jose Cuerva representative of the Visa Hall of Fans. It is an event to be seen at least once in everyone’s lifetime. However, if the NFL is going to use the argument of "building new stadiums to host Super Bowls", then by Thor, the NFL should be the one writing the check to build them. I'd even go so far as this: The NFL should build and own all the stadiums with revenue going back into the shared pie for all the teams.

Hell, I'll even take it one step further. How much money do you think FOX, ESPN, and CBS make off of NFL-related programming? Next time they reup their TV contracts, a portion of that contract should be money to go into a stadium pot.

I bid you all adieu.

Posted by: MrCheerOrDie at May 17, 2006 1:33 PM

Gobsmacked... excellent word Cheer. Well done.

Now, as far as the NFL contribution goes, isn't that the G3 fund? And isn't Zygi's proposal that of his $280M over $100M is from this NFL fund? So the NFL is ponying up some money, almost enough for the roof itself. Just that Zygi is counting this money as "his" contribution, when it's not, as this is paid back from the visitor's share of club-seat revenue.

The thought of NFL-owned stadiums is intriguing though.

I'm not fully certain of the deal Zygi is putting forth, so if I am mistaken please let me know.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at May 17, 2006 1:54 PM

In fairness to the Vikings, they are offering to pay a higher % of the then the Twins, but that has been the trend with NFL teams vs. MLB across the country for the reasons you mention above and because of the NFL's loan program.

I don't think the league should be paying for the roof or infrustructure. They are already helping out with the G3 Loan program. Why should they pay for these things outright for the 'privledge' of being allowed to have a Super Bowl in MN? The Vikings and the county should pay for the roof.

I don't have a problem with the state paying for the improvements to 35W. I would ask why shouldn't the state pay for this? Do the Vikings get to make that section a toll road if they pay for it? Roads are one of the core functions the state should pay for. If we do indeed get a Super Bowl, the economic impact will pay for the improvements many times over.

But the bigger point is that it's way, way too late in the game for them to still be having discussion over variables like this. The very best Twins stadium plan ever was probably the one that occured at the end of the 1997 Special Session. But it was thrown together at the last minute and no one could really be sure if the #'s were right. And we all no what happened there.

Posted by: David H at May 17, 2006 1:56 PM

Accoring to the Star Tribune website, it appears as though the Vikings plan is now good to go. With a total investment of around $1.6 billion (according to the Star Tribune), the legislature would be silly not to take a look at the Vikes plan at the same time they look at the Twins and Gophers. The only way the Vikings plan would stall the Twins is if Kelly's combined stadium/metrowide tax bill is seriously considered, which looks not to be the case. They may only play 10 games per year, but there is no question which team matters is more popular in the the entire Upper Midwest. For this reason, plus the increased costs associated with waiting until next year, the Vikes bill deserves to get looked at seriously by the conference committee.

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at May 17, 2006 4:19 PM

Are you sure Curt, it looks the opposite. Below is from a strib.com article posted at 4:14 pm (the latest I could find):

Just hours before appearing before a joint conference committee before Senate house members scheduled to begin late today, the Vikings and Anoka County appeared no closer to finalizing an agreement for their proposed stadium in Blaine that would include a retractable roof.

"We've got a $5 million hole," said Representative Andy Westerberg R-Blaine, the author of a Vikings stadium bill in the house.

Posted by: freealonzo at May 17, 2006 4:25 PM

freealonzo, I did not see that update when I posted. If they do not have a plan, then I will take back what I said. If they can't figure it out, they'll have to come back next year. But if they do come up with something, it needs to get looked at before the end of the session. In the words of the philosopher Larry the Cable Guy, it's time to "Git R Done!"

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at May 17, 2006 4:50 PM

It is 5:15, the House is still in session. So the conference committee is substantially delayed. This is why you don't mess around with Vikings bill for 3 days. Time is running out, they need to move on already.

Posted by: David H. at May 17, 2006 5:18 PM


Posted by: Anonymous at May 17, 2006 5:25 PM

The last post was mine !

Posted by: jimj at May 17, 2006 5:28 PM

No. Be nice.

(Comment deleted)

Posted by: Anonymous at May 17, 2006 8:45 PM

This is show time. Rep. Finstad has moved the House bill, with the original 18% language and the MLB guarantee removed, in other words almost the perfect bill as it was introduced in the House.

Posted by: David Howe at May 17, 2006 9:19 PM

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