The biggest frustration for a stadium supporter is other stadium supporters


UPDATE: Minneapolis mayor and city council president narrow Minneapolis sites to Metrodome

I’ve been a supporter of a new Vikings stadium, maybe not 100%-under-any-circumstance, but more than 50% under current circumstances to be sure, and the biggest frustration is not stadium opponents. That’s maybe a good thing, since most people I know are on the other side of this issue from me. The same is true of most public officials or candidates who represent me, as well those who I know much about, or know personally at all. Well, I don’t require 100% agreement, and in this time when it seems every issue is facts versus denial, it’s nostalgic to have an issue where reasonable people can disagree.

No, my frustration in being a stadium supporter is other stadium supporters. The Vikings have been terrible advocates for their own case, the highest profile grassroots group isn’t any better, and even the usually messaging-astute Mark Dayton has been a poor explainer.

I don’t mean the entire Vikings organization is lousy at communicating with the public. The people who actually have contact with the public are really good. The box office staff, the ushers, and the staff who ran the Metrodome open house before the Vikings’ season started are ambassadors for the team. The people higher up however, well, let’s start with the owner. Zygi — you’re not helping.

Zygi Wilf recently bought a Manhattan apartment for $19 million. Perhaps he’s used to spending money however he wants without the press caring enough to report it. That’s an explanation for his utter blindness to the optics of how that particular transaction was going to look, but not an excuse. Does he not get he’s running a campaign? What his apartment has to do with a stadium is nothing, but spending that on an apartment when the public already feels it’s being asked to subsidize a billionaire makes me wonder if he really gets how politics works. You don’t flick boogers on the people you’re trying to win over, and failing to check if there was anyone in the booger’s direction isn’t an excuse.

Speaking of flicking boogers, or hurling insults if you prefer less grossness with your pejoratives, there was this from Save the Vikes:

As with any public hearing we do expect to hear from opposition on a Vikings stadium and given the time slot, the advantage goes to opponents. We typically see those who are unemployed or on a fixed income advocating against a new stadium because the government isn’t giving them enough. All while the majority of the Vikings 2.5 million fans are working.

Please tell me Save the Vikes are actually secret agents from Los Angeles. Do I really need to explain all the ways that was wrong? I don’t know who Save the Vikes are, but I have been unemployed, and I have been on the side on other issues that gets accused of being too lazy to work. I’m on the same side this time, and I took it very badly, so how much more some unemployed person who does vote and is persuadable? WAS persuadable?

The Vikings point man in the stadium campaign is Lester Bagley, who was recently on MPR’s Midmorning. He seemed to find the phone calls annoying, which was odd considering it was a call-in show. There’s was nothing particularly cringeworthy that he said, just a dismissive attitude toward the questions he was asked when he would have helped his case by some straight answers and making he stadium’s strongest argument. Instead, it felt like his real answer to everything was, “do I really need to be here?”.

Like I said at the top, one of Mark Dayton’s strengths is his ability to articulate a straightforward message so the public is clear about his intention. His phrase “people’s stadium” sounds good. Anybody know what it means? I guessed he meant the new stadium wold be used much like the Metrodome, and eventually that turned out to be right, but I shouldn’t have had to guess. Besides, anybody know how the Metrodome is used? The “people’s stadium” argument is being made to people who don’t know how the Dome is used, and to people who think they know but are wrong, sometimes very wrong.

That’s actually the strongest argument that doesn’t get made for public financing, maybe the strongest argument, period. Opponents, in the one instance where I will say opponents have their facts grossly wrong, keep saying the stadium is just used for 10 Vikings games a year. The Vikings could turn that around. Yes, there are just 10 games, maybe 11 or 12 when they make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean the Dome is dark the other 355 days. Quite the contrary, the Dome is a busy place in ways that have nothing to do with the Vikings:

  • Out of more than 300 event days per year at the Metrodome, less than 100 feature professional or major college sports. The rest of the event days are used by high schools and colleges, concerts, community activities, and other events.
  • The Metrodome hosts boys’ and girls’ high schools from throughout Minnesota for athletic and other events, as well as small college athletic competitions.
  • More than half a million people have come to the Metrodome to see concerts by major performers such as Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, Guns N’ Roses, Faith No More, Metallica, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and The Grateful Dead.
  • The Metrodome is the only major facility in Minnesota big enough to host major motorsports events.
  • The Metrodome draws more than 4,000 runners and 30,000 inline skaters per year.

I don’t know what an “event day” is. Days with some event going on, a reasonable guess? I do know I’ve been one of those 30,000 skaters (I’m presuming that’s 30,000 visits, not 30,000 separate people, but I don’t know for sure) and this post started in the Metrodome concourses during Rollerdome. I’m still a novice so I focused intently on not crashing into the vendor carts pushed up against the concourse wall, but I still noticed the many other other skaters, hard to miss as they passed me by, but I also noticed that almost every visit, there was some event on the field. I think last time it was a high school football tournament, before that it was a girls soccer tournament, and I caught we bits of Gophers baseball. I was thinking at one point too bad I didn’t have a video camera handy because a bit of video might make the point about how much use our current stadium gets that has nothing to do with the Vikings, then, back to main theme, the germ of this post, I wondered, why is this up to some blogger guy?Why aren’t the Vikings making a video showing the many uses the current stadium is put to that have nothing to do with the Vikings? Or why doesn’t the sports commission do it, or the governor’s office? I can’t hang around the Dome day after day to record what goes on, and I’m sure not going to skate around with my phone or my camera risking a smashup of both skater and expensive gadgets to get some shaky amateur video.

Just to pile on the point, the strongest argument for public funding of a new stadium is that the public gets a lot of use out of the current stadium, and the pro-stadium side is utterly failing to let the public know just how much non-Vikings use there is. This is like selling a house and refusing to mention that the roof is new (forgive the mention of the word “roof” in the context of the Dome). This is stronger than threatening to move to one of the stadiums Los Angeles is building, which is likely to just cause resentment and stiffen resistance (there has been no voiced threat, but come on, we all know both stadium developers in LA have their fingers ready to dial Zygi’s number the second the lease is up in February, assuming anything stops them from calling now). It’s stronger than the jobs argument which, though entirely accurate, is vulnerable to the counter-argument that those jobs could be generated building roads or schools instead (the counter-counter-argument, not to get too deep into the weeds, is that we’re not building a stadium now, yet we still can’t get the money for other needs).

Especially if the new stadium goes into Minneapolis, preferably reusing the Dome site, a stadium isn’t just for the Vikings, but has other public uses. It could have more if we were to build the next stadium with public uses built into the design.

UPDATE: Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and Council President Barbara Johnson told a Senate committee that their preference for a Minneapolis site is the Dome. Rybak also talked about being able to use the armory for pre-game activities. That’s a new one to me. The armory has been on the edge of being torn down for decades, the difficulty being it’s sort-of argued about historic value. My recollection is the preservationists won, but I’m not sure it wasn’t just a reprieve, so this idea would give the building new life. As a Minneapolis resident and history buff, using the armory is a nice bonus if the Dome site gets reused. However, this is just if there’s a new stadium, and if it’s in Minneapolis. The Vikings still seem to be set on Arden Hills, and Ramsey County hasn’t given up yet.

The specific site for a stadium is tangential to my post, but as long as I’ve updated with this news, there’s a connection in that if it’s to be a “people’s stadium”, the Dome site is much more desirable in terms of accessibility, namely, it’s possible to get there without having to drive. It’s accessible to pedestrians and bicycles, there are already several bus lines serving it, and there is already a light rail station. For those who take freeways, the freeways already exist.