I won’t waste time on whether the Minnesota Vikings’ longtime argument for a new football stadium is valid or not. Instead, I’ll share my thoughts that their latest scare tactics might backfire on them.
A gangster-like move took place last week when NFL officials arrived in town to strongly hint that if state lawmakers don’t soon approve a stadium plan, then the NFL club will have no choice but to look elsewhere for a place to play.
When a state shutdown took place just a few months ago, and while all of us stand on the sidelines watching budget cuts, political grandstanding, and other nonsensical gamesmanship being played, it is ingenuous at best and just plain stupid at worst for Vikings officials to whine that “It’s our turn” to get a new home. Especially when that home costs $1.1 billion and the team wants the State to foot a hefty part of it. Reportedly the Vikings have agreed to put up at least $407 million toward the project, with the NFL possibly making available as much as $150 million in loans. The team also is banking on a Ramsey County sales tax increase to raise another $350 million. It’s the remaining $300 million the Vikings want the State to come up with.
In my opinion, the Vikings are acting like young children who often confuse needs with wants. They want a new stadium, and obviously, based on their point of view, the pro football franchise wants us to believe they need one as well.
Thus far, the Vikings have not made a convincing case that their so-called “needs” outweigh our needs — that their wishes to keep up with the (Jerry) Joneses, the Dallas Cowboys owner, should be on top of our wish list as well. However, if our state lawmakers do agree to help fund the Vikings stadium, there must be some iron-clad conditions in place as well. I strongly suggest the Vikings sign a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), whether their new home is built in Minneapolis or Arden Hills, stipulating as follows:
First, that Blacks and other people of color make up no less than 50 percent of the construction workforce. Furthermore, all subcontracts bids must be open so that Black-owned businesses and businesses owned by other people of color have a legitimate chance to compete for them.
Second, the Vikings must hire no less than 50 percent Blacks and other people of color in meaningful stadium jobs, and not just those selling food and souvenirs.
Third, if the Arden Hills site is indeed where the Vikings will move to, free buses will be made available for urban folk to travel to and from games, similar to how the area casinos have buses picking up folk for free.
Fourth, the team will give 10 percent of its annual stadium revenue to local entities, such as supporting urban schools; e.g., purchasing athletic equipment or helping them in other ways to keep pace with their richer suburban counterparts.
Fifth, the Vikings will annually set aside a significant block of “affordable seats” — let’s say 10,000-20,000 — and price them at $10-$20 each for each home game for the entire life of the lease, which should be no less than 99 years.
Vikings officials constantly argue that they are part of the civic fabric; signing this CBA would be a true testament to this. It would truly show that, in addition to lining their own pockets, the team is committed to creating a better economic environment for the entire area as opposed to just the surrounding few blocks adjacent to the stadium.
If these conditions aren’t acceptable to them, then maybe the Vikings should go — there are other places around the country who will give them virtually everything they want simply to have a NFL team in their midst.
I agree that the Vikings stadium debate has gone on far too long. The state legislature needs to finally put this to bed by either saying yea or nay and being done with it. I don’t agree with referendums — either the public trusts the lawmakers they voted into office to make the right decisions for us, or they should vote them out and find those who will make nonpolitical decisions that fully serve the public.
The clock is ticking — the Vikings’ Metrodome lease expires after this season — and has been for years. It’s louder now because it’s close to shutdown mode.
But the question that should be asked is, if the State can find $300 million to build a stadium, then how much would it cost to rebuild North Minneapolis? Or how much to ensure that all Minnesotans have affordable health care? Or to create educational equity or affordable housing?
Whether the Vikings leave or stay, life goes on. But making life sweeter for the rich, even a rich NFL team owner, shouldn’t leave a sour taste for the rest of us.