We’re Making Progress in the #Vikings Stadium Debate #wilfare

We’ve seen some positive progress in the Vikings stadium debate over the past week. The biggest news is that the Vikings now realize that the public is not going to pay to build a 21,000 car parking lot in Arden Hills. They, of course, are welcome to do so, but not with the public’s money:

Dayton was firm about the fate of one site: The Vikings’ previously preferred site at Arden Hills, he said, “is not financially viable.” The Vikings, he said, could choose to contribute $700 million to the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium — something the Vikings immediately said would not be possible.

Looking at the options I outlined back on December 29th, we can scratch the one of the left off the list:

Public/Private Stadium Costs by Site

It looks like the public has saved at least $100 million in the past week. It also means that – if a stadium is built – it will leverage previous investments in transportation infrastructure (highways, NorthStar rail, LRT, buses) and existing hotels and restaurants rather than attempt to justify building infrastructure to support 10 uses a year. That’s a good start.

Funding is easier when the project is cheaper, but the project (as it exists now) still relies too heavily on the public to subsidize Vikings fans’ season tickets (~$40/ticket per game in ticket welfare).

Revisiting financing options, if Cory Merrifield from Save The Vikes switched his efforts from lobbying for corporate welfare on Zygi Wilf’s behalf to asking fans to come up with cash for PSLs, we’d be much closer to getting a deal done:

Stadium Funding with PSL and License Plates Fan Funding

PSLs: Fans pay personal seat licenses at an average cost of $2,500, bringing in $163,000,000. Clearly, the PSL cost would be higher for some seats than others. Whatever gets us to that figure is what matters.

License Plates: Fans pay $1,000,000/yr for Vikings license plates. If 21,000 fans were willing to pay $50/yr for the right to market the Vikings on their license plates, that would raise $30,000,000 over 30 years.

In addition to those two options, since this would be the “People’s Stadium” I’m going to assume that the people benefit from stadium naming rights by having that revenue go toward paying down any debt the public takes on to get a deal done.

But, still, the most financially sane way to upgrade the Metrodome is to simply upgrade the Metrodome, like Vancouver did with BC Place:

Since they stuck with the same foundation, they were able to fully renovate the facility in not three years but 19 months (the stadium closed at the end of 2010 Winter Olympics (Feb 2010) and reopened for its first football game on September 30, 2011. (That would be ONE relocated season to the Gophers stadium for the Vikings.)

The upgrades addressed many of the same concerns Vikings fans have with the Metrodome:

– Retractable roof allows for outdoor games
– Fixed roof means building doesn’t have to be pressurized (no more revolving doors or being pushed out of the building after games)
– Upgraded concessions
– Refurbished restrooms
– New screens, including a very impressive center-hung HD big screen
– New seats throughout the stadium.
– Adding windows that allow natural light to enter field and concourse.

They did all of this for $563 million in one of the most expensive cities in North America.

Since we know Wilf is good for at least $420 million, that leaves $143 millin for Vikings fans to cover through a combination of personal seat licenses (a 1-time fee of $2,200/seat would cover it). Or, some combination of PSLs, license plates, and any other creative solution Vikings fans (together with the Vikings organization) can come up with that doesn’t rely upon public funding works for me.

One other interesting thing about Vancouver’s plan:

In April, Vancouver City Council killed a massive casino proposal for the land beside BC Place. The money from the development was supposed to help ease the financial burden on taxpayers.

Minnesota could learn a lot from what’s proven to work in Vancouver. Renovate your way to a modern stadium, and keep costs low enough where don’t have to sell out to gambling interests.

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