The Vikings’ stadium situation has reached critical mass this week, after a key House committee in Minnesota killed the bill that needs to be turned into law before the stadium can be built.
Now, the league has gotten more directly involved. Commissioner Roger Goodell and Steelers owner Art Rooney II, chair of the NFL’s stadium committee, will try on Friday to revive the deal that was previously struck between the team, Governor Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak (but not City Council), and legislative leaders (but not the full Legislature).
NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman joined PFT Live on Thursday to talk about the status of the effort to get the stadium built. Currently, the Vikings and the league want to know whether the politicians are willing to move forward with the deal that was struck among the folks at the highest levels of state and city government.
At a minimum, the Vikings and the NFL simply want a full vote by the legislators on the proposed deal. “[S]tanding back and looking at it you have to begin to wonder whether this is just going to be forever stalled,” Grubman said. “And that’s really what we have to find out, as soon as possible.”
Grubman explained that a failure to vote will be regarded as a vote against the proposal. “[O]ne way or another, the legislators own this process,” Grubman said. “They own the outcome. I just think they shouldn’t be afraid to vote ‘no,’ if that’s what they really want to do. But if they want to vote ‘yes,’ they shouldn’t let it die in a committee.”
The sudden insistence by the Vikings and the league on getting an answer comes after years of patience. The patience has now been exhausted. Right or wrong, yes or no, up or down, the Vikings and the NFL believe that the time has come for the people in Minnesota to decide whether they want to build the stadium, or not. “You have an ownership without a lease, an ownership that is without patience, questions from the rest of ownership, people have designs on the club from places outside Minnesota,” Grubman said. “These things are all boiling to the top.”
So with no lease and with the situation “boiling to the top,” what if the deal falls apart and the Vikings decide to leave in 2013 and an acceptable deal can’t be worked out to play in the Metrodome in 2012?
“I don’t want to get into that, and I haven’t prepared an answer for it,” Grubman said. “I will say simply that the Minnesota Vikings are going to play a full season in 2012 on this schedule that was announced two nights ago. And I hope and expect that they’ll be playing in the Metrodome. If for any reason they can’t, they will still play their games. . . . That’s a sideshow to the sideshow. Let’s keep our eyes focused on the goal line. The goal line is let’s get a reasonable stadium deal done for all parties, and let’s get it done as soon as possible. And if it can’t be done, then we’ll turn to alternatives.”
Those alternatives likely include selling the team to a local buyer, selling the team to a buying who would move the team, or moving the team with its current ownership.
Later tonight (ideally), I’ll put together a list of questions and answers aimed at helping folks in Minnesota and elsewhere understand how things got to this point, and where things could go from here.
None of this should be viewed as an opinion on whether it’s “right” or “wrong” to use bargaining power to secure public money. The NFL views the fact that other cities and/or states will contribute to the construction of a stadium not as leverage (or, as some call it, “extortion”) but competition. Though the process can be unsavory when a sports team that is viewed as a public asset can be moved to a new place, a location that hosts an NFL team sometimes has to ask itself whether it wants to continue to host an NFL team, and what it’s willing to contribute financially in order to do so. If the choice is made not to contribute enough public money to get a new stadium built, that’s fine.
The reality, when it comes to the NFL, is that someone else always will.