This weekend, a Minnesota State Senate Committee agreed to pay a ransom demand by the National Football League to use taxpayer’s dollars to build a new, improved stadium or the Minnesota Vikings will be shipped elsewhere, presumably to Los Angeles. Earlier in the week, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodall traveled to Los Angeles to add impetus to the threat. Then, Friday morning, Goodall and Art Rooney II met with Governor Mark Dayton and leaders in the state legislature “to stress the urgency” of using tax dollars to pay the ‘blackmail’, or else poor Zygi Wulf, the team owner, might have no choice but seek refuge in sunny southern California.
The stadium is expected to cost about $1 billion. The ever-generous Mr. Wulf is willing to provide $200 million, and the NFL will pony up another $200 million. This leaves the taxpayers with a bit under $600 million. Now, let’s play a little game called math. Let’s say that the stadium will fit 80,000 people. Also, let’s guess that 40,000 seats will be taken up by season ticket holders. That leaves us with 40,000 seats. Now, there are about 5.4 million people living in Minnesota. Let’s assume that 1/3 of them are adults who would want to go to a game. Since there are 8 games every season, that’s 320,000 seats for 1.8 million people. So each non-season ticket holder could get to enter the stadium every 5 and a half seasons. Quite a deal for $120 per resident, the cost of the taxpayer subsidy.
I’m not much about using people’s wealth as an argument against them. However, I’m guessing that Governor Dayton, who is the principal owner of Target, might have a few bucks laying around. If this were a good investment, instead of wasting the taxpayers’ money, why doesn’t he either just buy the team himself, or negotiate so that he would pay for the stadium and receive the lion’s share of the revenues that it generates?
I used to hope that we were done with this idea of politicians caving in to billionaire owners that we throw them more money or else they’ll pick up their team to a city that will pay their ransom demands. But down here, an owner we’ll call ‘Umbrella Man’ meets with the governor every year or so, pleads that he needs a bigger subsidy to stay in New Orleans. Then the governor, it doesn’t matter who, each of them pay the ransom, and Umbrella Man drives back down to New Orleans. I just hope that he sobers up for the drive. Now, he’s bought the NBA team as well, so I guess that we’ll just have to dig a little deeper to pay him off.
The wondrous thing is that there are always cities which are willing to play in this Ponzi game. San Antonio, for a number of years, was the designated ‘city to be named later’. I assume that they still have their telephone on waiting for some vagabond team to ask them to the prom. Now, I guess that it’s Los Angeles turn. It would be more effective if not for a couple of things. First, it seems like a few NFL teams have tried to settle in La-La-Land, but it turns out that people have more fun things to do down there in the fall than go to a stadium to watch football. So, the teams left. Second, the NBA has some pretty exciting teams in Los Angeles. But whenever I watch the Lakers or the Clippers on tv, the ‘crowds’ consist of a lot of empty seats, with a few movie ‘stars’ scattered in between.
Minnesota has already seen one of their sports teams, the Lakers, move away to Los Angeles, and they didn’t have the decency to change their name, even though the nearest lake worthy of the name might be a few hundred miles away. So this threat has some resonance there. So, if the Vikings move to LA, it probably won’t strike anyone as ironic that the Vikings came from a northern clime, whereas in Southern California, if the high temperature is below 60, the city calls an emergency.