Sunday slant: Gridlock rules with stadium

Vikings stadium Ramsey County rendering 2011

The mess that is Minnesota politics continues with the Vikings stadium push, as politicians can't agree on a plan to keep the Vikings in Minnesota. After the government shutdown this summer, it's just one more sign of legislative ineffectiveness despite some economic benefits.

The Vikings stadium debate could be a matter of Minnesotans coveting what they don't have.

They don't have a state surplus despite being one of the highest taxing states in the union. They don't have the political cohesion to get much done (remember that pesky government shutdown that wasted more money) after making the switch to a Democratic governor and Republican-led legislature. And they just don't seem to have much common sense when it comes to their politicians.

The only things the state government seems good for these days are excess rhetoric and a shortfall on getting anything accomplished.

The discourse among stuffed suits is worse than any Cris Carter sideline tantrum. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is forging ahead trying to find a stadium solution with a few select politicians willing to take a stand. House speaker Kurt Zellers is taking his own position, strongly against a Vikings stadium – any Vikings stadium apparently, as he said he can't imagine a scenario that would meet his approval. But isn't that part of the problem with today's state of politics? There is no expectation of coming together to solve issues.

Zellers says he is more interested in creating jobs and boosting the economy in Minnesota. Typical and expected political rhetoric, so where are the jobs? Well, some of them are currently with the Metrodome, a building that doesn't have a tenant big enough to support the expenses after the Vikings finish out the final four games of their current lease. More jobs (about 13,000 more) would be created on a temporary basis through the building of a new stadium, whether that's in Arden Hills or Minneapolis. Sure, some of the jobs at the new stadium would simply be transferred from the old venue, but the thousands created during the construction phases could get a lot of Minnesotans through the next few years. But apparently the state would rather continue to pay for the 20 percent unemployment rate in the construction trades industry. That makes perfect sense … in Minnesota politics.

The price tag of $650 million between the state and another funding source is no doubt a substantial commitment. How can Minnesota afford such a bill in troubled economic times? Ironically, that's just about how much the state will lose in taxes generated by the Vikings over the course of a 30-year lease if the Wilf ownership group justifiably gets fed up with the political gridlock and moves the team. Taxes on player and staff salaries, along with sales taxes on tickets, merchandise and other Vikings items produce over $20 million annually for the state. Over a 30-year lease, that equals more than $600 million. But I'm sure the state didn't enjoy any benefits from the $320 million it received from the Metrodome when it didn't contribute any money toward it, and the people of Minnesota obviously must not have benefitted from the 300 annual events that are held there. Surely, the Metrodome won't miss the $6 million to $7 million the Vikings contributed annually to operate the outdated building.

Other Minnesota businesses, like hotels, restaurants and bars, obviously don't need the estimated $145 million in annual business that would come with a new stadium. And hosting an NCAA Final Four that would generate $20 million to $30 million. Puh-leese. We Minnesotans are so much better than that … and clearly we would lose our "Minnesota Nice" card if we lured the Super Bowl away from another city and cost them that $300 million impact for one week.

So go ahead and take a stance that fits with your political belief. Republicans can say they don't support the extra spending. Democrats can say they don't like to support a billionaire. And reasonable people can look at the benefits and drawbacks of spending money on a Vikings stadium and come to their own conclusions. Of course, you won't find many reasonable self-thinkers in Minnesota politics.

That's why when the tough topics come up that they are paid to investigate, research and vote on in the best interest of their constituents, they cower at the possibility of backlash and want to put the burden on the people who elected them to make an informed decision. So, what exactly are we paying our politicians to do? Stand in front of TV cameras to gain name recognition? That ought to move the state forward.

QUICK SLANTS

  • The Vikings are expected to make an announcement regarding Chris Cook's roster status on Monday. Cook, who has been charged with felony domestic assault, was suspended without pay for the Panthers game, but the Collective Bargaining Agreement says a player can only be suspended four games without pay before a team has to make a decision on his roster status. The Vikings elected not to fill Cook's spot on the roster for the Panthers game, but now that they will begin preparation for their next opponent on Monday, they will likely either reinstate Cook on the active roster or cut him and sign another player. Among the players that worked out for the Vikings last week was former Panthers cornerback C.J. Wilson.

  • The best and longest tenured center in Vikings history is finally getting some of his deserved recognition. Mick Tingelhoff, the former University of Nebraska and Vikings center, was named the 2011 recipient of the President Gerald R. Ford Legends Award. The award will be presented during the 12th Annual Rimington Trophy Presentation banquet on Jan. 14, 2012 in Lincoln, Neb. Tingelhoff was a six-time Pro Bowl player for the Vikings from 1964-69 and was named All-NFL seven times. He started 240 consecutive games, which was second-most in the NFL at the time of his retirement (trailing Jim Marshall at 270). Tingelhoff played 17 years for the Vikings, including starting in all four of the franchise's Super Bowl appearances. He and Marshall are pointed to as the Vikings most deserving of the Hall of Fame who still aren't enshrined.

  • Interesting twist? Some conspiracy theorists believed (hopefully half-heartedly or sarcastically) that Zygi Wilf had something to do with last December's roof collapse so the state would build a new stadium. Now, following a Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission assertion that the Vikings' lease will run another year because they didn't play all of their games in the Metrodome last year, we've even heard from people that believe some politician or MSFC member had something to do with the roof collapse. Can't we just agree that old things like the Metrodome break down on their own and eventually need to be replaced?


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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