After the Fact Reporting on Vikings Stadium Corporate #wilfare

It’s interesting to see how much the reporting on the Vikings stadium bill has improved now that the Vikings corporate welfare stadium bill has passed the MN House and Senate.

MPR looked at the redevelopment potential (the day after the bill was signed) with an urban vitality consultant, Charles Landry, who had the following take on stadiums:

In general, stadia neutralize the space around them and kill the city- as an urban construct.

Patrick Reusse, writing for 1500ESPN less than 24 hour after the bill passed, has an impressive piece looking at how much the public was fleeced by the Wilfs. Bob Collins calls Reusse’s after the fact reporting “journalistic malpractice”:

Correct me if I'm wrong but this first graph is a journalist admitting malpractice.

From Reusse’s column:

We in the Twin Cities sports media were so amped up over getting a new stadium for the Vikings and thus maintaining them as a subject to write and talk about that not much time was spent looking at the financial realities.

Nick Coleman points out the problem with Reusse’s piece (Reusse also writes for the StarTribune):

Failure: Little or none of Patrick Reusse's financial analysis of #Stadium deal was in StarTribune. Ever.

Reusse closes his piece on 1500ESPN by pointing out that the Vikings are probably only putting $27 million of their own money toward the construction of the $975 million stadium:

Add it up – naming rights, license fees, NFL grant _ and you have $450 million of Zygi’s $477 million. That doesn’t seem to be much suffering for a fellow now being depicted as the patient martyr of stadium negotiations.

That’s something we never saw in the StarTribune. And, something people chanting “BUILD IT! BUILD IT!” clearly didn’t understand.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer’s letter to colleagues explains how much the public got hosed over in the conference committee. The House and Senate both passed versions of the Vikings stadium which then went to conference committee to reconcile the differences.

But, that’s not what happened.

Both bills heading in to conference committee were better bills for the public than the bill that came out. Instead of a regression toward the mean, we saw the public’s regression toward a private business owned by a New Jersey businessman:

Usually bills get better when they come back from a conference committee.
This time, it got worse. Additional pork for St. Paul and Minneapolis was added, a shocking data privacy for the Vikings was included, the funding mechanism of the pull tabs continued, the percentage to charity got smaller, no user fees included and the general fund continues to be at risk of bailing out this project in the future. In addition, the “new” $50 million the team is “adding” to their portion is offset by the team getting the naming rights instead of the state. The Wilf family also got back in their exclusive rights to a Soccer team for the next five years or so. Quite an amazing package for the owners.

I realized that this was a set deal between the Vikings, the Governor and the bill authors and that no matter the amendments or arguments, it would get done. They had enough votes to force it through.

This is becoming a classic NFL scam. Get the media to focus on the up-front construction costs, while ignoring the real money in a stadium deal. The public will receive nothing from naming rights, concessions, parking, user fees tied to tickets, suites or merchandise. But, the public will have the opportunity to pay for the stadium, to maintain the stadium, and to continually upgrade the stadium to NFL standards. Minneapolis takes a huge hit on this, with $675 to $890 million in stadium obligations over 30 years.

Esme Murphy blogged about the change in public sentiment regarding public financing for a stadium:

Somewhere in the haze of the past few months of the Vikings stadium debate, I heard someone say if legislators really thought people wanted a Vikings Stadium that they would vote for it.

I honestly can’t remember where I heard it, or who said it. But I kept thinking about it. It was so simple, so basic, so true. And in the end, it was why I was convinced that there was not a chance of a stadium bill getting through the legislature.

A couple of months ago, if you mentioned the topic on the radio, the phone calls and the texts were overwhelming in anger and opposition. But in a remarkable and fundamental turn around, public opinion began to shift and ultimately lawmakers began to soften.

Albert Breer with The NFL Network explained (on May 11th, of course) how gullible MN legislators and Governor Dayton were regarding the Los Angeles relocation threats:

The league is no closer to returning to the nation’s second-largest market. And the truth is, there’s a good chance the NFL is still a long way from returning to a city it vacated — twice over — 17 years ago.

The league actually has found L.A. to be a profitable market from a TV standpoint if it’s simply fed the best games week to week, which happens because there isn’t a local club to stop that from happening.

Supporting the public financing / corporate welfare package was surely easier for people who didn’t understand the terms of the deal. In fact, it seems like Vikings fans who paid close attention to the debate still don’t understand what the public has given Zygi:

@jrodanstine for the annual tax to be $6, families could spend no more than $1,200 annually on taxable purchases in #mpls. cc @aprilmurch

To me, that’s the real failure of the media on this issue. When people disagreeing on an issue can’t at least agree upon the facts surrounding that issue, the media has failed the public.

29 thoughts on “After the Fact Reporting on Vikings Stadium Corporate #wilfare”

  1. “When people disagreeing on an issue can’t at least agree upon the facts surrounding that issue, the media has failed the public.”

    I honestly can’t think of any ways in which the media serves the public. Not since I was a kid in the ’50s has the establishment so totally owned the public.

  2. So, how about if the Mpls City Council actually uses this new and better information to actually uphold their responsibilities to the citizens they represent and not just 7-6 rubber stamp this boondoggle?

  3. Speaking as a veteran of the unsuccessful effort to stop the 49ers from raiding the City of Santa Clara’s (pop. 115,000) coffers for some $900 million, your experience to date in Minnesota is right out of the NFL con job play book. At the end of the day, the “deal” you thought you were getting in no way resembles what you were promised. The owners run the same scam over and over with disastrous consequences for taxpayers.
    I wish I could give you a roadmap to defeat this humongous subsidy for billionaires, but there isn’t one. The owners will get your money and you will get nothing. And that’s the best case scenario. More likely, you will be digging far deeper than you ever imagined to cover the inevidable future losses. I am so sorry.

  4. Never thought the Mineapolis City Council would be the last gasp for saving the taxpayer of Minnesota. Ironic as can be.

    Thanks for the confirmation on the idea the NFL is in no hurry to return to LA. They can’t get a deal put together there because football fans in town don’t care, they do get the best games of the week, and it’s easier to get what you want with threats rather than inticements.. California is more broke than Minnesota, no way they’re building a stadium with public money there.

    And if it’s done with private funds, so be it, they deserve the team.

  5. Sank – The city of Santa Clara, CA IS building an NFL stadium for the 49ers. During the campaign, people here were told that the “49ers/NFL/stadium revenues” or just the 49ers were going to pay 92% of the stadium construction costs. After the ‘yes’ public vote, the deal worked out behind closed doors has the city’s agency, the Stadium Authority, carrying $950 million in loans for stadium construction. Those loans come due at the end of construction, and no one will tell Santa Clara taxpayers how the loans will be repaid. Santa Clara only has 115,000 people, and we are not a wealthy city by any means.

    They campaigned on jobs, but now the 49ers have teamed up with San Francisco to transfer game-day jobs from San Francisco to the Santa Clara stadium. And the 49ers have teamed up with SF to bid on a Super Bowl – Santa Clara appears to have been cut out of the negotiations. (See the San Jose Mercury News coverage of this.)

    If you want to know how badly elected officials can treat their taxpayers, go to the santaclaraplaysfair dot org website, and read the timeline of how the majority of Santa Clara’s elected officials acted as if they were elected to represent the 49ers, not the people of Santa Clara.

  6. FYI – By transferring game day jobs from San Francisco, I meant from the current stadium (Candlestick Park)to the Santa Clara stadium. This isn’t job creation. These aren’t new jobs (as advertised in the stadium campaign materials.) These are existing jobs held by employees who are willing to make the drive to a Stadium in Santa Clara.

  7. Well Ed, look at the worldwide commentary of mis-information and biting comments the Reusse posting and those other links created…so sad, and this likely explains why true political and community discussions are impossible in our times.

    This whole debate reminds me of the 1st Gilded Age and the powers of the monopolies toward ‘persuading’ people to do their bidding.

    The vitrolic debate, both now and then, may best be captured in a quote attributed to gilded ager–Jay Gould =
    “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
    Frequently attributed, often in the context of strikebreaking activities during the Great Southwest Railroad Strike of 1886.

    At least then, the fleecing of taxpayers and working people resulted in railroad infrastructure that could be used for transportation for people and goods.

    At least then, these gilded agers would create Carnegie libraries and other charitable foundations to try to atone for their life of privilege, to provide back to people some benefit for the fleecing their gov’t granted monopolies provided to enrich them.

    Now, in this 2nd gilded age, we have banksters with their bonuses while taxpayers get austerity measures as thanks for bailing them out. And onto this shrunken economy and disappearing middle class, we now have these stadiums, with public subsidization of the costs while privatizing all the profits to the NFL and its owners.

    And to even mention this is to invite superfans to verbally spit upon you while ignoring any facts presented. America, the land of free speech, a land of free market capitalism, is a land of dreams…the American Dream, as best summed up by George Carline.

  8. It seems there will always be the embittered losers who may never change their minds. I suppose the guy who once told me that the Mall of America was destined to be be a massive failure is among them.

    But who knows if some folks might start seeing the Stadium in a different light. Sure it is Wilfare and it cannot be justified by pure economics. None of the glorious architecture in Paris made economic sense when it was built by visionaries. How is Minneapolis going to look in few years? The Pioneer Press reported that the neighborhood around the stadium is looking forward to betterment—-hardly the “dead zone” that Ed has preached here.

    I guess some folks are stuck with “in the box thinking” about these deals and never will change their minds about it being a bad deal for everyone by the Wilf’s. And then there will be those who go to the ribbon-cutting and hail it as the greatest decision ever. It will probably include a strange alliance of some of the most ardent and vocal opponents along with TParty types and Rep. Zellers—that is if he remains in office.

    Rybak did some pretty amazing stuff here to note that many in his city would fight this and whine about it and never prevail. Rybak was late to the game, but apparently saw the possibility that the Vikes would preferably build in Arden Hills and, if they did, the Minneapolis property tax base would go south and the Target center would remain as a taxpayers albatross.

    But you never have gotten that “perspective” by reading this blog? The stadium was trashed over and over but Dayton and Rybak prevailed.

  9. @Rick, the area around the Metrodome has a 30 year history of not being developed. Do you have an example of an NFL stadium fitting into a neighborhood?

    The stadium doesn’t pay property taxes, and calls for more land to be shifted to tax exempt status. Were that large parcel of land to be redeveloped, chances are pretty darn good that it would pay more than zero in property taxes.

  10. @Ed You have completely missed the big picture on this. You seem to be stuck in a thinking box and cannot see the way out of it.

    Quoting a report from KSTP TV:

    “The neighborhood around it expects big changes. Many believe the stadium will bring new development to the area, including bars, restaurants, and more housing.

    Neighborhood groups believe a planned park around the stadium will do more for the area then the stadium itself. The groups believe a park surrounded by bars and restaurants will keep people in the neighborhood.

    There are several parking lots and older buildings around the dome. Neighbors tell us a new stadium may lead to the facelift they’re looking for.”

  11. Um, Rick, the stadium IS the new bar/restaurant. Why would people being wined and dined in fancy new skyboxes have any reason to eat/drink somewhere else in the area?

  12. And, um Rick, none of the glorious architecture in Paris was constructed with an intentional thirty year maximum lifespan like modern-era stadia are.

  13. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when delivering news that isn’t wanted. KSTP reporters found some folks who see this development quite differently from the general pitch offered on this blog.

    My guess is that Rybak will look like a hero in a few years and the nitpickers like Schiff will be long forgotten. As we look back, the vocal views of the naysayers in the legislature such as Ortmann, Pippen, Kiffmaier and a few Dems will be seen as shortsighted. Only time will tell—of course.

  14. Yes, time will show this to be the worst MN public investment in history. This quote from Greece yesterday sums our times up nicely–
    “‘The middle class will be squeezed for the sake of these financial interests. This is something which goes against democracy, dignity and freedom.'”

    This is the look of pro sports stadia…enjoy your view from whatever seat in this ‘people’s stadium’ and when the bills come due, don’t remember Rybak or Dayton as they just did their job, instead remember the real enablers who let this happen.

  15. @Rick, Nick Coleman had some fun explaining KSTP’s challenges with reading Survey USA’s data:

    Here are the poll results:

    When 52% say the team should either continue playing in the exiting Metrodome or a renovated Dome, while 43% support building a new stadium, it doesn’t sound like there was that much support.

    When 58% say it should be funded entirely privately, it doesn’t sound like there was that much support.

    When 67% favor a referendum, it doesn’t sound like there was that much support.

  16. How has time judged the Metrodome?

    But this time, it will be different, and Charlie Brown really will get to kick the football.

    And crowds will flock to the bars and restaurants surrounding the new facility the 357 days a year that it isn’t hosting an NFL game.

    Marco, sorry to be a stickler, but at least one Paris landmark — the Eiffel Tower — was constructed with an intentional twenty year lifespan.

  17. Why do the people who want the stadium always feel it’s necessary to badmouth those who don’t want the public to pay for it? Just as Rick, above, calls people in MN who don’t want the public to pay for a stadium ‘losers’, here in Santa Clara, the pro-stadium crowd has thrown out lots of bad names for people in Santa Clara who don’t want our taxpayer dollars going towards a stadium. I won’t repeat the name-calling. It’s amazing that pro-stadium adults will stoop so low. No one would want the children in our community to behave that way when they have a difference of opinion with someone, yet adults who want a stadium routinely behave badly towards those with a different point of view.

    People here in Santa Clara who are against the stadium have also been subjected to cyberbullying, and harassing emails/phone calls at both home and work by the pro-stadium crowd (especially by someone who has been a paid campaign worker for our pro-stadium city council members.) Our local rag newspaper allows personal attacks against stadium opponents in the letters to the editor column. This is all in an attempt to intimidate people to shut down public opposition to the stadium, to stop people from speaking in front of our city council, stop people from speaking to the media, and stop people from writing letters to the editor which express concern about public funding for a stadium.

  18. @Peter Hoh, it’s interesting to hear people suggest that the numbers will work for the new stadium when it costs 6X as much for 1/3 as many teams. Minneapolis entertainment taxes were enough to cover the Dome’s cost 30 years ago. Now, we need to exploit gamblers at the state level to further subsidize the NFL’s taste in stadiums.

  19. @Tom, is the term “loser” is going to be applied to Minnesota’s stadium financing deal, it should be applied to the people who have to lose – a lot – at gambling in order to generate the revenue the state has promised the NFL. One rep called this “the stadium that losers’ built”.

    I’ve experienced similar harassment here in MN. People that don’t want to spend their own money paying for their preferred form of private entertainment don’t like it when people suggest that they spend their own money paying for their preferred form of private entertainment.

  20. @Ed get ready for the whining of fans once the personal seat license costs and ticket prices are made known. Here, fans were all for the new stadium until the PSL prices, up to $80,000 per seat (for the privilege of buying tickets) were made known. Both the San Jose Mercury News and the SF Chronicle have run articles about disgruntled, long time season ticket holders who will not be able to afford to keep their seats in a new stadium. They were warned by stadium opponents during the campaign that this would happen, but the season ticket holders wouldn’t listen. Of course, the PSL prices were kept quiet until after the ‘yes’ votes for the stadium was over with.

    And there is no guarantee that Santa Clara and the surrounding area for 75 miles won’t be blacked out if the stadium isn’t full.

    PSLs will show that the owners don’t have loyalty to long time fans or season ticket holders, just as they don’t have loyalty here in Santa Clara. MN Vikings fans will find this out soon enough. There will be whining and gnashing of teeth, but it will be too late for those priced out of seeing games live in a new stadium. And the same fans who are priced out of the stadium often the same people who were gun-ho to spend taxpayers money on a new stadium.

  21. @Tom, I think you’re right. There will definitely be PSLs on the premium seats. Minnesota hasn’t been selling out season tickets, so they won’t be able to put PSLs on all seats, but they can certainly stick it to a lot of fans.

    The MN Senate attempted to tax PSL sales as a stadium financing user fee, but that didn’t make it into the final bill. My guess is that the Vikings didn’t want the state competing with the business for revenue from fans. Much better for the team if the state and city charge non-fans for the stadium, thus leaving fan funds for the business to extract.

  22. @Ed – are you aware of what happened here when the Raiders tried to sell PSLs to pay for renovations to the Oakland Coliseum in the mid-1990’s? They needed to raise $200 million for the renovations. PSLs didn’t sell. The city of Oakland and County of Alameda got stuck with the bond payments for the renovations because the PSLs didn’t sell. The bond payments started out at close to $38 million/year. They’ve dropped to something like $20 million/year, but the city and county are still making those payments and the amount of principal still to be paid on that renovation debt is substantial (you’d have to check with the Oakland Alameda Coliseum Authority to see what the debt is today).

    Meanwhile, while the taxpayers continue to pick up the tab for the Coliseum renovations (of course elected leaders had promised no cost to the public) the Raiders are whining for a new stadium and the move threat to LA is ever present.

    Hence our skepticism in Santa Clara regarding how much the PSL sales will bring in to pay down stadium construction debt here. Of course, although a public agency is taking on the $950 million in construction loans, the public isn’t allowed to know the details of the PSL sales (or much else, for that matter.) There’s no sales tax on the PSLs here because the city’s agency, the Stadium Authority, is selling them (controlled by the 49ers chosen contractor, of course.)

  23. @Ed. You have convinced me. Those poll results clearly show the public didn’t want Wilfare all along and we now have a whole bunch of supportive Democrat politicians who will look like fools in time. The TParty folks got this one right and will be in power once the marriage amendment and voterID become law.

    Yep—you were just a lot smarter about this lousy stadium deal all along!!!


    Does the legislature still have time to kill the sales tax exemption so that the state can charge itself sales tax?

    Polls are always to be taken as gospel and over the edge—and some folks believe it too. In my experience, truth is hard to get at. Should I also believe the latest poll showing Romney over Obama?

    In the end, I believe this whole deal is going to play out vastly different than you have led readers of this blog to perceive. We won’t know for a few years.

  24. @Rick, are you suggesting that the DFL members of the MN Senate and House were Tea Party folks in disguise? It’s strange that you continue to assume that people could only be opposed to wasting the public’s money from an “all government is bad” perspective. Clearly, there were many votes from people who opposed the bill for different reasons on the left and right.

  25. Paraphrasing Mark Twain’s “Lies, damned lies, and statistics,” we faced liars, damned liars, and legislators.

  26. Rick:

    The power of the armed state should never be used to forcibly compel me to transfer any part of my paycheck to a billionaire sports team owner, who runs a private business, so that you can watch a football game.

  27. We can debate how bad the deal is until we’re blue in the face but the fact is that the stadium is now over 50% complete and instead of whining about it, maybe we should embrace it. Was it a great deal for tax payers, probably not, but the stadium is not going away. If some of you want to go strap yourself to one of the pillars and say “NO More!” be my guest, but I for one am going to embrace it, since arguing about all the finer details isn’t going to CHANGE anything anyways.

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