Vikings stadium, transparency, and ‘understandings’

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[I intend to make the following comment to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority at their monthly meeting this Friday. It’s Friday the 13th, so wish me luck!]

 

Madame Chair, Authority members: You’ve no doubt realized by now that I am still hopeful that this project falls through. Or that you come to see the light of day and cease your own involvement in this insanity. And to show how hopeful I can be, it’s just 98 days til spring!

[I enjoy making jokes to them, because I’m so impressed with how impassive their faces are as they stare at you. I closed my comment at their last meeting with “Thank you very much, and thank you for allowing me to tilt at windmills.” And not a single corner of the ten corners of their mouths curled up ever so slightly. They are serious folks, and their focus is absolutely remarkable.]

At your November meeting, I suggested you adopt a policy of transparency regarding those people invited to view events from the two suites you will own. This would show you were using those suites for a public purpose, and not merely to entertain your friends and business associates. This was a very conservative suggestion, so I was shocked to see it didn’t make it onto your December agenda.

After the November meeting, Mr. Benson [Authority member Duane Benson, a former State legislator] asked me: “What makes you think we’d use those suites?” Well, your owning two suites was not in the legislation, and you negotiated for that ownership in the lease agreement. So unless you did that because you wanted the Vikings to own only 148 suites instead of 150, and had no intent of ever using them, you must have negotiated those provisions for some reason. And I don’t think it was a huge leap in reasoning to assume that you intended to use them.

I also noted another provision in the lease agreement that was not in the legislation. Section 5.9, “City Services for Team Stadium Events,” reads in part: “It is the understanding of the Parties that the City will provide certain municipal services…in connection with Team Stadium Events…at no additional charge to the Parties.”

No one representing my City of Minneapolis signed this lease agreement, so I wrote my City Council, inquiring about where this “understanding” came from. One Council member responded, saying she had “no idea what has been negotiated by who [sic].”

So where did this “understanding” come from, and can it be binding in any manner whatsoever? I ask this because some of the very same services specified in that section were services for which the City of Minneapolis, on November 1 of this year, authorized entering an agreement with you to bill you for similar services for this year. So I was confused as to why your “understanding” was that something my city billed you and your predecessor agency for over the past seven years –- I have no idea who paid for these services for the first 25 years of the Metrodome –- would now be provided for free.

I had planned to wear Vikings horns here today because from my observations of other public bodies, that is the best way to have one’s ideas about stadium issues taken seriously, but maybe next time.

Thank you very much.

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