The Vikings’ Lester Bagley on Mid-Morning with MPR

It was interesting to listen to Lester Bagley get crushed by Kerri Miller on MPR. It gave me the impression that he spends most of his time talking to people who bleed purple, so was unprepared to answer questions on why the Vikings deserve $650,000,000 of borrowed public money.

One of my favorite lines from him was when he said that “it’s tough to lead” on stadium issue due to a lack of public support. Actually, that’s not a sign of things being tough to lead. That’s a sign that politicians are listening to their constituents’ opinions on Wilfare financing.

Bagley also explained the Metrodome’s hot dog problem. It’s certainly true that it’s tough to buy a hot dog during halftime at the Metrodome. That tells me that it’s time for hot dog vendors to pool their money to help Zygi Wilf with his financial shortcomings. Personally, I deal with the hot dog problem by buying hot dogs from the vendors that walk the ailes. Frankly, I don’t have a hot dog problem at the Metrodome. And certainly not one that needs a $650,000,000 solution.

Dedicating car, hotel, or lottery taxes to pay for a Vikings stadium are NOT examples of “user-based financing”. User-based financing means taxing the users. As in, why doesn’t Wilf just raise ticket prices by the $45/ticket it would take to let the market cover the stadium’s cost? Or have each season ticket holder chip a $15,000 check over to Wilf for Personal Seat Licenses? It doesn’t take Wilfare for Wilf to build a stadium.

Bagley continues to use the term “local partner” to describe “secondary source of Wilfare to provide $350,000,000 in Wilfare on top of the $300,000,000 in Wilfare provided by the State of Minnesota”.

When Bagley says “our lease is up” it’s not a case of being kicked out by a landlord. We’re the landlords, and would love to see the Vikings continue to run their business in a paid-for stadium. But, Bagley seems to use the term “our lease is up” as a veiled threat that they will leave if we don’t provide $650,000,000 to the team.

Between yesterday’s MPR hour with Ramsey County Commissioner, Tony Bennett, and today’s by Lester Bagley, i can see why the Vikings are having a tough time selling the public on borrowing $650,000,000 for the Vikings, then paying interest on that debt for decades.

20 thoughts on “The Vikings’ Lester Bagley on Mid-Morning with MPR”

  1. At one point Kerri forced him to boil down exactly why the Vikings want public to support to finance a new stadium. His answers?

    1. The “fan experience” – i.e. making it easier for fans to come into the stadium, buy concessions, buy swag, etc. The bottom line there is money for the NFL and the ownership.

    2. The fact that the Dome is “not competitive” and “is being subsidized by other NFL teams” – i.e. the NFL and the Wilfs are not making enough money, and they want to make more.

    The thing that really struck me, though, was Bagley’s tone throughout the whole interview. I can’t believe someone representing a private company with their hands open for welfare would choose to have such an arrogant attitude towards real, important questions about why such a venture should be supported with tax dollars.

  2. @Luke, the Vikings can’t make a rational case for the amount of public Wilfare they are asking for, but then they send out people like Bagley or Tony Bennett to attempt to make emotional cases for a stadium. That’s when they really look like greedy jerks who want the kids of the unborn to pay for their stadium.

  3. The guy who asked why he can’t get public financing for his restaurant was awesome. Bagley’s answer was precious. “It was painful to listen to that bizarre analogy.”

    It was a perfect analogy, and if it sounds bizarre, that’s because it is, on either a small or large scale.

  4. “The guy who asked why he can’t get public financing for his restaurant was awesome. Bagley’s answer was precious. “It was painful to listen to that bizarre analogy.”’

    I didn’t hear it, but it would be painful to listen to, because it’s only been used, something like 5 million times. Painfully non-creative.

  5. Rat, forgive me for hearing it for the first time. Uncreative perhaps, but spot-on nonetheless.

    Out of all the corporations in MN, what, exactly, makes the Vikings so special in this regard? All Bagley could really come up with was something along the lines of, “but … we’re the VIKINGS! And people watch us on tv!” I came away with a definite sense that he felt that the vikes were simply OWED this by the people of MN.

  6. They are the only NFL pro football team in the state. Seems like a special designation to me. Unlike Mexican restaurants, there isn’t going to be another one opening up if one closes down. I don’t know how he feels, because I don’t how anyone feels. I only know what they say.

  7. @Rat, the Vikings business is one of thousands of entertainment businesses in the State of Minnesota that compete for discretionary income of residents and visitors. They are not special, but want the government to grant them subsidies that are not available to other businesses.

    Even if we limit it to professional sports, the Vikings are one of three professional sports entertainment franchises that currently have a MN outlet. Life would go on if we lost one of the three. Especially if life going on means not having to be forced to subsidize that business to the tune of $650,000,000 plus interest.

  8. If someone has said that life wouldn’t go on without the Vikings, I don’t know who that would be. We talk as if this were the first sports complex that was built with this process. They’re nearly all built like this. That must indicate some level of specialty.

  9. @Rat, I don’t disagree that other teams have been treated in ways that are unfair to taxpayers and locally owned businesses. I don’t see how that justifies making the same mistake again.

  10. I agree that the restaurant/Vikes analogy is funny but unfair…

    A restaurant is just a restaurant. It succeeds or fails based on the free market. If the food and service is bad, they’ll fail.

    The Vikings are a professional football team in the NFL. The NFL is, essentially, a fabulously successful and privately owned cartel. They are the only people that produce professional football in this country, and they have exclusive license to all of the means of producing professional football. The league is owned by the owners of the franchises, is limited to less than 24 people per franchise, and their bylaws forbid any kind of public ownership (Green Bay being the exception, grandfathered in).

    This tiny ownership group is, by any measure, unbelievably successful. They are raking in money from multiple sources…their TV deal alone is the most valuable and lucrative in all of US pro sports. Their bylaws and operating procedures are set up to benefit the ownership group first, they share their profits (that’s what Bagley calls “subsidizing”), and they spend a lot of money lobbying governments at all levels to support policies that will benefit them. Up until very recently, and only because they were shamed into it by superstar players, they basically forgot about the crippled and severely injured former players that helped make them rich.

    Mr. Rat – you are deluded. You and the other stadium cheerleaders have made this emotional. They are not our team. They belong to Mr. Wilf, and he want us to give him our money so that he can profit as much as possible for himself and for the NFL with his football team. There is nothing more to it than that. Borrowing money to build his stadium would mean that he and the NFL would make less money than they would if they can convince us useful idiots to subsidize it.

    Also, asking “was Target Field a mistake?” is a really stupid, over-simplification of a complicated question. I am a Twins season ticket holder, and I love Target Field. Was it a mistake to subsidize it with tax money? I’d say yes. However, the money involved did not and will not put Hennepin County on shaky financial footing. Also, the way Target Field was designed, where it was built (integration with transit and commuter parking garages, integration with the urban fabric of the Warehouse District, etc), and the partnership with the Pohlad family was much more tolerable.

    So was it a mistake? Yes. Did the execution of that mistake make it more tolerable, more acceptable, and more value-added? Yes. This Arden Hills plan would be an unmitigated mistake on almost all levels, and the proposed execution would make that mistake even worse.

  11. @Luke, good point about the team not being Minnesota’s team. I think Zygi Wilf has made that very clear through the veiled threats the Vikings organization has been making regarding their option to pick up and leave if the state doesn’t meet their ransom demands. It was smart of the NFL to use locations in their team names. It creates a false sense of ownership that comes in handy when you’re trying to convince a city/county/state to hand over money to increase their bottom lines.

  12. Also, asking “was Target Field a mistake?” is a really stupid, over-simplification of a complicated question============ I just asked his opinion. I don’t think any question is a dumb question. I am not a cheerleader for the Vikings at any level. Barely watch them. As for the location question, I’d say it’s pro football. I can’t think of many scenarios — objectively speaking— where pandering to pro football fans doesn’t bring in boatloads of money. It’s the most popular sport in the United States. Do you want a venue and be a home for the most popular sport in the United States in your home city or don’t you…..Luke?

  13. @Rat, if you’re asking “Do you want a venue and be a home for the most popular sport in the United States in your home city AT ANY COST or don’t you?” The answer, for me, is clearly no.

    If the question is “Do you want a venue and be a home for the most popular sport in the United States in your home city WITH THE BUSINESS PAYING FOR ITS OWN STADIUM LIKE A GROWN UP BUSINESS SHOULD or don’t you?” I’d say, why not? It’s there money.

  14. Q: “Do you want a venue and be a home for the most popular sport in the United States in your home city or don’t you…..Luke?”

    A: Is it nice to have an NFL football franchise here? Sure!

    Do I love the Vikes and enjoy watching them play? Absolutely, as much as that’s possible given how they’ve broken our hearts over the years. I’m purple through and through, though…I still keep coming back.

    But, is having an NFL franchise here an essential thing that causes our quality of life in Minnesota to be much greater than other places? Absolutely not.

    An NFL franchise is an extra bonus to living here. It’s a luxury. It’s nice for people that can afford it to be able to go to games, be part of the experience, etc.

    It is most definitely not worth subsidizing with tax dollars. It is most definitely not worth putting the finances of one county with a finite tax base at risk just to have them here. It is not worth taking out bonds and diminishing Ramsey County’s borrowing power when roads, bridges, schools, and other infrastructure that IS critical to our quality of life is damaged and at risk.

    It’s just not worth keeping if doing so puts the real reasons to live here, raise kids here, and call this place home at risk.

  15. ” I’m purple through and through, though…I still keep coming back.”

    Well, you might not have to after this year.

  16. The bottom line on the stadium issue is this. The Vikings are part of the culture of MN. Why does the city or state waste money on parks, art, and as an example, “green roof” subsidies? I happen to be from ND, and I’m going to estimate that on any given Sunday, there are 4000 to 5000 fans coming from the ND side of the river to Mpls to spend the weekend and enjoy a Vikings game. I have season tickets and make the trip about 4 to 5 times per year, at an average cost of about $1200 per weekend. Sales tax appears to be about 7.775% in Mpls and lodging taxes an additional 2.625%. That means I contribute $103.80. 4000 X $103.8 X X 8 games per year = ~$3.3 million in additional sales tax revenue. Over 20 years, that’s $66 million, just from ND residents. I use that example because you simply can’t come back at me and say I’d have come to Mpls those weekends to do something else. I only find myself in Mpls a handful of other times throughout the year for various events (Twins, NDSU vs. the U, or a concert). I also know lots of people who use the Vikings as an excuse to come down and shop at MOA. Those ND residents spend far more than the $1200 per weekend that I spend. I’m not saying the state shouldn’t try to extract as much dollars as possible from the Vikings, but I’m also saying the team contributes a lot more to the state’s coffers than you might believe.

  17. @Tim, I don’t believe anyone is questioning that there are season ticket holders from outside the State of MN who come to MN for games, and spend money while in town. There are also season ticket holders who live in MN and choose to leave the state to watch the Vikings play and spend money in other states, which one would want to account for as well.

    But, I do think it’s fair to ask why the businesses you describe aren’t willing to put up their own money to help Zygi with his Wilfare demands.

  18. That $66 million over 20 years sounds fantastic. And the Vikings cite numbers like that too.

    But ask yourself this: Is it worth spending $650,000,000 to get $66,000,000 in tax revenue over 20 years?

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