In this time of government unrest and lack of work, voters in Minnesota will have a tough choice coming soon. The choice of increasing their taxes or losing the Minnesota Vikings. Most NFL owners have put their fans in this position before and won because of it. This time may not be the case.
This is the final year for the Vikings at the Metrodome. Yet funding for a new stadium hasn’t been secured nor has a developer been hired to begin drawings for a new stadium. Something the Vikings want so badly they are willing to listen to outside overtures offering the possibility of one.
Vikings owner Zigi Wilf has heard the rumors. The rumors that began last year when the Metrodome roof collapsed and forced the team outside to play at the new University of Minnesota stadium.
Then came former Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson. Johnson sold off his portion of the Lakers and announced he wanted to bring an NFL team back to the area. That is all Wilf needed to stoke the fires of unrest in Minnesota. After all, Los Angeles already stole the Lakers from the area. It’s not implausible to think they could do it again in the NFL.
Wilf is trying to downplay reports he is moving the team. “We have momentum here in Arden Hills,” Wilf said.
Wilf is referring to a suburb 10 miles north of Minneapolis where Vikings and Ramsey County officials have agreed to put a stadium if the state signs off on the deal. Therein lies the dilemma for the state and the Vikings, and an open door for Los Angeles.
That door opened further Tuesday for LA. The Anschutz Entertainment Group got an endorsement from the Los Angeles City Council for the funding and timeline on building an NFL stadium. AEG’s plan for a $1.2 billion in downtown LA, to be called Farmers Field, should be completed in 2016.
Yet Wilf and his brother, team president Mark, met with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton last week. Wilf commented the conversation went well but negotiations were in the early stages.
Dayton has voiced his support for a new stadium, however keep in mind the state is coming off a recent shutdown and tension is still high between the parties. This should be something that would bring them together, however the thought of new taxes are abhorrent to the Republican Party and that promises to be a problem.
Wilf has tried to counteract the tax problem by promising more than $400 million to the project, which also calls for a half-cent sales tax in Ramsey County that would contribute another $350 million. $300 million has been asked from the state, funded by a new statewide sales tax on sports memorabilia, luxury seats and digital video recorders as well as stadium naming rights, a Vikings lottery game and an income-tax surcharge on NFL players. The latter should go over well with other NFL teams playing the Vikings.
Because of the Minnesota shutdown, the special legislative session on the budget didn’t address the stadium issue. Thus the Vikings are pushing for another special session this fall, with the goal of approval by the end of October. Dayton has not committed.
But Los Angeles might very soon.