"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Still time to nix new Vikings stadium?

Here it is: King Solomon's Temple.
 
Is there still time to cancel the new Vikings stadium?
Minnesotans became suckers thinking this thing was a necessity. A drumbeat grew. The state's main newspaper, to the extent we're influenced by newspapers anymore, became a shill. Daily we were bombarded with messages of urgency.
Zygi Wilf, owner of a team valued at $975 million, 2/3 of it debt-fee, lobbied the political system. Mark Dayton, a Democrat who should have more sound sensibilities, got distracted by a "need" that was highly questionable.
The kind of maniacs who fill the Metrodome started showing up at the state capitol, faces painted purple.
Minnesotans don't seem to have any real reservations about the Metrodome. The reason we all became suckers is we bought into the fear the Vikings would leave. We suckered for the pushiness of business tycoons. These are not bad people, it's just that they always seek the best deal possible. And people on the other end have to be careful.
Now we're committed to a new monstrosity that could well be a bridge too far. It's to cater to a sport that has storm clouds over it. The erratic and dangerous behavior of players is a warning sign. Two incidents very recently have resulted in lives lost.
God knows what all these players are doing to themselves to deal with the pressures of the game. The injuries they withstand are sad and needless. The public is gradually awakening. Kids will be less inclined to play football.
Fans at NFL games seem to be less civilized. A recent guest op-ed in the Star Tribune illustrated this concern nicely. Families might be advised to stay away. And this is what we wish to publicly subsidize?
The new stadium appears to be a done deal. We might wish to contact Jay McNamar, our new state representative, about this.
State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen was a chief sucker for the new package, so much so he has taken heat from the Minnesota affiliate of the Koch Brothers (conservative) organization. Isn't Ingebrigtsen a Republican?
What will happen with football between now and 2016 when the new monstrosity will open?
The pro game is already being tinkered with, to try to make it "safer." Is that worrisome? Think of the Pro Bowl. Fans joke about that game being such worthless entertainment. Why is it so? It's because the players are being coached in such a way as to minimize injury.
As the NFL gradually adjusts its game to protect players from the kind of health issues now bringing lawsuits, will the game stay recognizable? Could it be that our love affair with football is based on seeing players fly around like uninhibited missiles, almost like they aren't really human beings?
They most certainly are human beings. And they have been getting significantly bigger, stronger and faster over the past couple of decades. It's because of our demand for the sport. It's a demand that can completely waylay our state government.
How I want to curse that air of inevitability that hung over the stadium "discussion." Governor Dayton himself had to put on a purple jersey and do a dance at the end.
There aren't too many forces that can intimidate NFL owners. But one is lawyers. So, the NFL is seeking to tweak its game without arousing too much concern. An early focus is kickoffs. Now there's a proposal that would have the ball placed at the 30 yard line, where a team (the team having just scored) would face fourth down and 15 yards to go. They can punt or go for it. No kickoff return at all.
An article in the Sporting News says "there is no doubt that concern about player safety will continue to impact how the game is played in the NFL." That sentence should be highlighted by all taxpayers in Minnesota.
Booms are known to go bust. NFL football has been a stupendous boom. The bigger they come, the harder they fall. Heavyweight boxing basically died. Football could drop a few rungs in terms of the class it exudes. Are we talking "ultimate fighting?"
Will the better educated segment of the population stop supporting the sport, stop having their kids play it? Will their eyes start shifting away from it? Believe me, this can be accomplished.
In the meantime, we've made a heckuva commitment to the new Solomon's Temple of a stadium.
Zygi Wilf might feel like a car salesman who has just managed to sell a car at sticker price. Come to think of it, Red McCombs actually was a car salesman.
The stadium will cost $975 million. Can we rule out cost overruns? Tragically we are going to tap gambling revenue. Have we no collective conscience anymore? It's a regressive tax. And can we count on it anyway? Estimates are tipping lower, to the tune of $18 million below end-of-session estimates.
Electronic gaming options won't be implemented according to the hoped-for timetable. The daily revenue per gaming device won't meet original expectations, we're told. As a result, the stadium reserve balance will be taking a hit. It's projected to be $47 million by the end of 2017, a drop of $36 million below end-of-session estimates.
The state is responsible for a $350 million chunk of Solomon's Temple funding. We're taxing the expansion of charitable gambling. Make way for electronic pulltabs which have been called the crack cocaine of gambling. They can't be up and running overnight. Virginia gave the nod for this gambling trick three years ago, and only now are the machines humming.
The Vikings are responsible for a $477 million chunk. Zygi Wilf has a net worth of $310 million. Fans weren't passive when the team "surveyed" them on seat licensing. Hoo boy. Are we finally starting to show some judgment as if we're buying a new car?
NFL owners would rather swallow shards of glass than borrow money and pay interest. Fans have actually raged about the proposed licensing ploy. Up until now, fans will shake their heads about shakedowns like this, but capitulate. I say "up until now" because I think the very troubling new revelations about the game are having reach. Fans are truly re-thinking.
The Vikings will get some money from stadium naming rights. I have joked with a friend that Marshall Fields should step forward. Then we'd have the name "Marshall Fields Field." (LOL, I guess.)
The naming rights could net $10 million a year over 10 to 20 years.
After pulling the levers just cited, the team will still have $326 million to be responsible for. The NFL itself has a loan program called G-4 which the team could use. So, pencil in another $163 million from this. And the rest? Bank loans? We're entering iffy territory with the whole proposition. Which is fine if the state hadn't gotten involved.
But now Mr. McNamar and his colleagues at the capitol are going to have to answer for all this. Forget Mr. Ingebrigtsen. He doesn't even answer emails. Even when a local Republican party official prodded him to answer my email, he didn't. The friend even forwarded me a copy of the email he sent the state senator. No dice.
Grand schemes involving money are notorious for going awry. It's one thing to map out where money is going to come from for something. It's something else to actually get that money. In the end, don't rule out the state's general fund coming to the rescue. The state's leaders won't really care about this. They just want to make sure the stadium gets built.
The big question is whether the fans really will swarm in. Or, will this be the colossal white elephant?
The Vikings, Twins and Gophers all used to play in the Metrodome. Wasn't that a quite fine arrangement? You can argue that baseball is best played outside. I'll concede that. But football? It's a quite cozy place for this sport which more and more looks highly dubious on its own merits. Building new infrastructure for it is not advisable. The Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley football team recently won a state championship there. I'm sure they were spellbound by the surroundings, quite justifiably so.
We have suckered for the allure of "something new." We have caved in the face of the likes of Wilf who has car salesman sensibilities. Nothing wrong with this savvy, just that the people at the other end must know their own interests too.
Is Dayton losing some sleep over all this? He should be.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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