After weeks of professing that they simply couldn't afford to support construction of a new stadium in any meaningful way, the city of Minneapolis yesterday proposed a program under which a "new" Vikings' stadium would be constructed on the current Metrodome site. Under the proposal from the city, the team would be responsible for approximately $400 million of the stadium costs (approximately 45% of the cost, given the current $900 million estimate), while the city of Minneapolis would kick in $195 million, leaving the state to handle the rest.
The plan also includes $95 million in renovations to the Target Center, and an attempt to lessen property taxes for Minneapolis residents by shifting debt around. In addition, it would transfer ownership of the Target Center to a central authority that would also control the Minneapolis Convention Center and the proposed new Vikings stadium.
So, to briefly summarize some of the finer points of this plan, the city of Minneapolis a) wants to spend as much money on a "new" Vikings' stadium as they want to pay for renovations to the Target Center, and b) wants the Vikings to not only pay for nearly half of the cost of the entire project, but to turn over the keys to the building as well.
Not surprisingly, the Vikings don't seem to be terribly jazzed about this idea. In fact, according to a statement released by the team after Minneapolis presented their proposal yesterday, the club issued a response saying that they had not been consulted about the Minneapolis plan, and had not agreed to any of the financing elements therein.
I should be surprised that the city of Minneapolis is acting this way, but considering that we've seen this movie before, I'm really not. Back when Zygi Wilf was negotiating with Anoka County for the proposed Blaine stadium when he first purchased the team, the city of Minneapolis got just involved enough to annoy Anoka County into pulling what was a pretty solid proposal off of the table. Right after that, the city of Minneapolis "lost interest," leaving the Vikings with nothing but the proverbial egg on their face.
During yesterday's press conference, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said that the city had been working on this idea for quite a while. . .but, with all due respect to the mayor, I don't buy that for a second. As I mentioned previously, the city had been saying for a very long time that they simply did not possess the financial means to support the construction of a stadium. Now, within days of a story coming out that the Vikings and Ramsey County were "very, very close" to a deal that would have the team build their new stadium at the site of the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, the financial means have suddenly appeared for such a thing to occur.
I'm going to use an analogy here that several of us over at The Daily Norseman have expressed in the race for a new stadium. The way it stands right now, the city of Minneapolis is coming off like the crazy ex-girlfriend/boyfriend that doesn't want you any more, but doesn't want anybody else to have you either. At this point, they're John Cusack standing outside our bedroom window with a boom box over their head. . .and I don't mean that in the "Awwwwww, that's so romantic" kind of way. I mean that in the "Really, have you thought about a restraining order" kind of way.
If Minneapolis was truly serious about putting together a decent plan to keep the Vikings inside of the city, then they could have had something put together long ago. At this point, it appears that they've simply assumed that they would let Ramsey County do all the heavy lifting to get the framework of a deal in place, and then swoop in at the last minute with a deal that the Vikings would ultimately accept.
The problem with this is, as I've said, the city has burned Zygi Wilf and company before with this sort of thing. And, as one of our modern-day American philosophers so succinctly put it not too long ago, "Fool me once, shame on you. . .you can't get fooled again." The Wilf family didn't become billionaires by being stupid. They have to know that the city of Minneapolis has just sort of slapped this together in a desperate attempt to keep the team in the city, and that it's not nearly as good a deal as the Ramsey County site.
I haven't even mentioned the fact yet that during the stadium's construction, the Vikings would have to play up to three seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, which would mean the loss of anywhere between $40 and $50 million for the team. As we saw with last year's game against the Chicago Bears, TCF Bank Stadium really isn't safe for any kind of football after Thanksgiving, as they don't have the underground heating element to ensure the teams wouldn't be playing on what amounts to concrete. (Unless, of course, the Vikings are expected to pay for that, too, which would just pile some more money on top of their costs.)
Do you know how the Wilf family did make their money? They made their money in real estate. That's another reason why I can't possibly figure out why they'd go for the Minneapolis proposal over the Ramsey County proposal. The old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site could potentially give Zygi Wilf and company 400 acres of real estate that they could develop using whatever vision they wish. Even if you used half of that for the stadium, the rest of it could be used for hotels, restaurants, shopping, or whatever else the Vikings could put there. The Dallas Cowboys have something like that with "Jerryworld" down in Texas, the New England Patriots have a similar concept in the works with their "Patriot Place" initiative, and there's no doubt in my mind that Zygi Wilf and company have something similar in mind for the Ramsey County site, as that would give them a level of freedom that they simply wouldn't have at the site of the current Metrodome.
I don't know if Zygi Wilf or anyone else from the Vikings is reading this, but if they are, please. . .don't dump the folks from Ramsey County in light of Minneapolis' proposal. Because just like the crazy ex-girlfriend, the odds are very good that you could do so much better if you consider the alternatives.