We need to do what we reasonably can to retain the Minnesota Vikings Before listing the whys, I need to utter what should be a requisite for such essays-besides the joy of the psychic income of victory, I derive no benefit from the team.
Tony Bouza is the former chief of police for Minneapolis and former gaming commissioner for the State of Minnesota. For an opposing point of view, see Senator John Marty’s article.
Why is the Gopher Stadium called TCF Field? Branding! And good brands are worth millions. Major league status flows from the existence of big league teams.
The Vikings are integral to the fabric of our society. They enable corporations to entice talented people here. Manhattan’s success secret is its ability to draw the nation’s gifted to its streets. (Ironically, the New York Giants play in New Jersey, but that’s another story.)
The team draws about half a million folks to downtown Minneapolis a year. They enliven and enrich the scene. I don’t think the Minnesota Orchestra draws as many, notwithstanding the unquestioned worthiness of the institution. (1) And these folks tailgate and spend pretty freely.
Building a stadium creates jobs. Having a stadium generates taxes and-and I know I’ll catch grief for this, but it’s true-neither L. A. nor New York City could distinquish between us and Indianapolis but for the Twins (2.4 million attendees) or the Vikes. Does that matter? I think yes.
Why should we subsidize the team’s rich owners?
For the same reason Toyota and Honda and a host of tax-increment-financed operations are partly subsidized-because there is competition for such valuable, job-creating additions to our community.
California has just initiated a process for a partially public financed football stadium. Yes, the nation’s No. 2 city does not have a NFL franchise, and the NFL is not likely to expand the number of franchises. Guess who is at the top of candidates for the honor? Every list I’ve seen lists the Vikings as one of the prime candidates.
Do the Vikes need a new stadium? Unfortunately, the economics say yes, if you cite the need for revenue-generating luxury boxes. How is this answered? By various emotional responses that can be labeled as attempts to repeal capitalism. Yes there are other priorities and needs. But the market dictates the terms and the best that can be hoped for is a good deal, not a no deal. The notion should not be undermined by invidious comparisons-either it stands or falls on its own merits.
Who are the reigning NBA champs? Why the Los Angeles Lakers, that’s who. Are there that many lakes in L.A., or were they once called the Minneapolis Lakers? (Chances are good you’ve guessed the answer.)
And remember the North Stars? Minnesota was bereft for years over the hole their departure created and the attempt-ultimately successful-to lure a franchise here took years of sweat, blood, coin and struggle. Finally we got the Wild and they fill their arena every night. And the Twins used to be the Washington Senators, and the Nation’s Capitol spent decades to lure a replacement. Let’s remember the agonies of absence.
There are political figures who, at least partially, have built careers on reflexive, mindless opposition to any partial subsidy of a stadium. They make cogent arguments about other needs. But what about the demoralizing sense of loss and emptiness that attends a black hole formerly filled ten times a year with half a million fans?
The Viking owners have spent lavishly to produce a winning product. The fans have come out in good times and bad. (Interestingly, to my warped sense of appropriateness, the NFL is a socialistic enterprise in which income is divided along fiscally egalitarian lines. As a result, Green Bay (Green Bay!) can compete with big market teams while the Twins often look like a farm club for baseball franchises on the coasts.)
I live in Minnesota because the people are nice (Minnesota Nice does live). There’s lots of space (we are really an island of about 2 million surrounded by a sea of green) and the quality of life is good. That latter point includes theater, music, restaurants, museums and, yes, sports. I know that the vast majority of you-the readers of this esoteric, wonderful, flaky paper-will disagree with me but, hey, that’s life.
Go Vikes! should be an exhortation to win, not an invitation to leave. The lease is up in 2011.
(1) According to the Minnesota Orchestra website: “The 98-member ensemble now presents nearly 200 programs each year, primarily at its home venue of Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapo-lis, and its concerts are heard by live audiences of 400,000 annually.” Attendance for 2008 to Viking games was 506,136.