As we’ve told you, legislation to fund a new Minnesota Vikings stadium is working its way through the state legislature. The legislation will ultimately cost the public at least $550 million, including $150 million from the city of Minneapolis. We oppose the funding of what are essentially private stadiums through public dollars, but as long as the public is forced by the NFL and Vikings ownership to build a new stadium or risk losing its team, there should be some caveats. And let’s start with blackouts. How about an amendment preventing blackouts from occurring in Minnesota if the public agrees to build a new stadium?
There are many ways this could be done, but Florida State Sen. Mike Fasano has sponsored legislation down there that would fine any team that has received public money and blacked out its fans. According to Fasano: “This legislation states that if a team accepts those dollars then they have the responsibility to make certain their home games are sold out before the 72-hour rule kicks in. If not, then they will be fined $125,000 for each blacked out game. The funds collected through these fines will be used to purchase game tickets for underprivileged children, military personnel, foster children and others.”
The blackout rule is counterproductive, archaic and unethical. Keep in mind that nine top sports economists recently wrote that “blackouts have no significant effect on ticket sales in the NFL.”
Granted, blackouts haven’t been a huge problem in Minnesota, but the team has flirted with them from time to time and who knows what will happen in the future. The Vikings could raise ticket prices in order to pay down their share of the construction debt and some seats may go unfilled. The team may also continue to struggle, leading to declining attendance. It’s easy to paint a rosy picture with a brand new stadium but Minnesotans should prepare for the worst and think about safeguards now so they don’t end up in the same boat as Cincinnati. That city is struggling to pay off its stadium debt, can’t field a decent team, and is now being blacked out because of the NFL’s punitive rules.
The NFL and Vikings ownership will oppose a blackout amendment, but who cares? If they don’t want to treat Vikings fans with respect, starting with guaranteeing they won’t black them out, they can pay for their own stadium. Now, which of Minnesota’s public officials is going to stand up for Vikings fans?
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