The stakes continue to rise in the eleventh-hour stare down over the new Vikings stadium.
The Vikings have pressed “pause” on negotiations with the Metropolitan Sports Facility Administration regarding the final details of a stadium deal, pending the resolution of a sudden investigation of team ownership following findings of fraud and civil racketeering in an unrelated New Jersey lawsuit. Obviously, a delay in the finalization of the documents could delay the commencement of stadium construction, which in turn could delay the completion of the project.
The Vikings have issued a statement dressed as an article that explains the situation from the team’s perspective. In it, Director of Corporate Communications Jeff Anderson writes that the project “remains on time and on budget.”
He’s right. For now. Eventually, however, the delay necessarily will impact the project, if the final agreements aren’t negotiated and executed.
Anderson explains that the Vikings have suspended the negotiations because the agreements at issue “are fundamental documents to this public-private partnership and should not be entered into lightly,” and that “the MSFA must feel entirely confident about the Wilfs’ ability to fulfill their stadium obligations” before moving forward.
Again, he’s right. But this isn’t about signing the agreements. It’s about continuing with negotiations aimed at finalizing the agreements so that they eventually can be signed. Why not continue the negotiations so that pens can be put to paper the moment the pending investigation of the Wilfs results in an all clear?
Perhaps the Vikings fear that they’ll be squeezed into making concessions during negotiations that occur while the review of the Wilfs proceeds. By waiting until the review has ended, the MSFA won’t be able to say, for example, “We have one lingering concern about X, and if you yield on point Y we’ll forget about it.”
Or maybe the Vikings want to force the powers-that-be to get the examination concluded quickly. While there’s currently no reason to believe that anything tangible will be found to suggest that the deal should be unraveled, the more time the investigators have the greater the chance someone will try to justify his or her fee by making an issue out of something that shouldn’t be an issue.
Regardless, the Vikings have taken a fairly aggressive position in response to a fairly aggressive ploy from the MSFA. It easily could devolve into a game of chicken, with the Vikings eventually flying the coop.
That’s still a long way from happening. But it’s a lot closer than it was a month ago.