With an undefeated team, the best running back in the game, a stifling defense, and a Hall of Fame quarterback who in four days will face for the first time the franchise with which he spent 16 seasons, there’s no time like the present to try to get some public money for a new football stadium in Minnesota.
Or, as the case may be, a lot of public money.
And if the present effort doesn’t work, there might be no future.
The Vikings will ask taxpayers for $700 million to build a new venue at the site of the current Metrodome.
The place would be called “Metrodome Next” [editor’s note: lame], and it would include a retractable roof. (There’s also talk of building a facility with no lid, which would restore a true home-field advantage to the team.)
Vikings exec Lester Bagley had an ominous message to those who’ll be considering the request: “If the answer is no,” Bagley told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “then why would you own a team in this market?”
This can be interpreted two ways. First, without a new stadium, owner Zygi Wilf will sell the team. Second, without a new stadium, owner Zygi Wilf will move the team.
And it likely would be moved to the Los Angeles area, where Ed Roski is moving forward with a new stadium in the city of Industry.
The locals, however, don’t seem ready to budge.
“Governor [Tim] Pawlenty
believes the Vikings are an important Minnesota institution and asset.
We want to see the Vikings stay in Minnesota,” Pawlenty spokesman Brian
McClung told the Pioneer Press. “But the state has to prioritize limited resources, and
as we look ahead to the 2010 legislative session, state funding for a
new stadium is not high on the list.”
Meanwhile, the other regular tenants are leaving the Metrodome. The Minnesota Twins have a new stadium that opens next season. And the Minnesota Golden Gophers already are playing in their own new open-air digs. The Vikings’ lease expires after the 2011 season.
“When we get to 2010, we
have 20 games left at the Metrodome, and the clock is ticking,” Bagley
“The state can’t afford us to become free agents.”
The problem, as we see it, is that the Vikings have been making subtle threats about moving for more than a decade, and folks in Minnesota possibly believe it’s all a bluff.
We’ve got a strong feeling that it isn’t.
And so, just as Minneapolis lost the Lakers to L.A. all those years ago, the Vikings could be the next purple-and-gold Minnesota product to load up the truck and move to Beverly.