I’ll admit up front that I’m not a fan of stadium projects. On the other hand, I’d feel a whole lot different if it was my favorite team that was facing relocation. So while I’m not a fan of the Vikings, I can understand why it’s a passionate issue for their fans to keep their NFL team in Minnesota. And as an impartial observer, I can see how the state of Minnesota is going to strike a bad bargain to keep their team.
The state of Minnesota is in a terrible budget crunch, but still managed to contribute $300 million to a new stadium. Unfortunately, the team says that’s not good enough. In a recent interview, Vikings vice president Lester Bagley says the state has to figure out how to pay for a retractable roof and roads. The roof has become the state’s responsibility (in the eyes of the Vikings) because the bill from the legislature “requires the stadium to have a roof” which will add “$200+ million” to the total cost. The road expense, however, originated with the Vikings, who chose a stadium site in Arden Hills at a polluted munitions factory that will require $131 million in new roads.
They ended up in Arden Hills because Hennepin County, the site of their current home (the Metrodome), wasn't able to offer a financial package due to their own budget crunch. Meanwhile, nearby Ramsey County offered, and the Vikings accepted, the site in Arden Hills because the county was proposing a sales tax to raise $350 million. However, it may cost over $300 million more to construct it compared to a new stadium on the site of the existing Metrodome. The funding gap may still be the same, but the financial commitment from Ramsey County made all the difference to the Vikings.
While this is all a lot of money, it might not be obvious why this is such a bad deal for the state of Minnesota. This is a project that should greatly benefit the state during the construction, and going forward as a venue for the NFL. But while it’s certain that the government is on the hook for at least $650 million, the Vikings are getting a brand new stadium, and all the revenue that comes from it, at a bargain rate. The team will contribute $400 million, but $150 million is coming from the NFL and another $125 million from personal seat licenses paid by their season ticket holders. So in the end, the Vikings will have a beautiful new billion dollar stadium that cost them as little as $125 million.
The state legislative session, however, ended without a bill for a new stadium. And unless the parties can agree on who’s going to pay for $131 million in road construction plus a retractable roof, this is a deal that the state of Minnesota may decide to pass on. Even if it costs them their NFL team.