Submitted by: The Pull-Tab King
Vikings Stadium Debate
I am about as much of a “casual Vikings fan” as you can imagine. Perhaps the best evidence of this point is the fact that I am writing my inaugural post for tossingdeuces.com as the Vikings are playing the Chargers in their season opener. Sad but true. Anyway, I thought I’d weigh in on one of the more recent topics du jour in the Minnesota sports scene – the new (maybe?) Vikings stadium.
I will confess that I don’t know the ins and outs of the Vikings stadium debate. I don’t know about the financial issues. I don’t know about the tax issues. I don’t know about the infrastructure issues. And I don’t know about the host of other issues that are on either side of what has become very much a political debate. Some people might (and do) say “so what, why should we spend taxpayer dollars to subsidize a billionaire owner and millionaire players”? Fair point. But spending those taxpayer dollars does much more than subsidize the billionaire owner and millionaire players. Based on the current Arden Hills stadium play, I can think of three things off the top of my head
First, the Arden Hills munitions plant site, which is a mere 14 miles from downtown Minneapolis, has been basically inactive since 1976 (according to Wikipedia, the plant was on standby status from 1976 through 2002, and in 2002 over 600 acres were declared “in excess” by the United States Army). The site has more than enough open space to develop the stadium, as well as hotels, shopping, eating and drinking locations that will be heavily used not just on game days but throughout the year. And, since the site was declared a federal Superfund site in 1983, part of the development will include the clean-up of the environmental contamination that exists on site. Of course this costs money and no one wants to pay for it, but the environmental benefits of the development cannot be gainsaid.
Second, the unemployment rate in the Twin Cities is not great right now. The last article I read said that several thousand jobs would be created by the stadium construction – both short-term (i.e., during development and construction) and permanent (i.e., during and after development and construction). I don’t know about the details of these jobs, but it does make sense. Anyone who watched the goings-on while Target Field was being built knows that it takes tons of people to build, operate and maintain a stadium. And anyone who has enjoyed a pre-game beverage (or two) also knows that it takes many people to operate and maintain the businesses that sports fans like to frequent before and after games. In this economy, producing more (rather than fewer) jobs has to be a good thing.
Third, the population of the Twin Cities is among the top 15 or 16 in the entire United States. We have professional baseball, basketball and hockey teams to go with the Vikings. To house our other professional sports teams, we have fantastic arenas (well, with the exception of the dark, dank pit that is Target Center). But, honestly, are there many better venues to watch a baseball game than Target Field? How about a hockey game at Xcel Energy Center? (And, until the Timberwolves ceased playing competitive basketball about five years ago, Target Center was at least tolerable).
Why is all of this important? Having one of the 32 teams in the National Football League – which has surpassed Major League Baseball as the far-and-away most popular sport – is, in reality, basically a prerequisite to being considered a “major league” sports town. And make no mistake about it, we will absolutely and immediately cease to be a “major league” sports town the minute the Vikings leave for Los Angeles or some other city that is willing to pony up the money for a stadium. I guarantee you that the Twin Cities and the State of Minnesota would immediately regret the Vikings leaving for another city. I would also be willing to bet a fair amount of money that several years after the Vikings left, many people in the state would be clamoring for an NFL expansion franchise to come to Minnesota to make us a “major league” sports town again. By the way, the franchise fee that the Houston Texans paid in 2002 to regain an NFL franchise after the Oiler left Houston in 1996? An absolutely, positively astounding $700 million (or about 75% of the cost of the current stadium proposal). Certainly food for thought.
I know the issue is a hot-button topic and there are no good answers. And, again, I don’t pretend to understand all of the pertinent points, issues and problems (real and perceived). But I do know this – I am a sports fan and a fan of the Twin Cities. I certainly hope that the politicians, protestors and other teeth-gnashers can get it figured out so we can keep the Vikings and, with them, our status as a “major league” sports town for years to come. Just one man’s opinion.