The Vikings, once again, are pushing really hard this idea that they absolutely have to have a stadium right now. This time around, it is almost comically bad timing--the team has woefully underperformed (wins against Detroit, Washington, Arizona and Dallas notwithstanding), the NFL ownership is threatening a lock-out, and the State of Minnesota is in the midst of a budget crunch.
What better time to aggressively push for public money for a stadium? The Star Tribune's Kevin Duchschere has the ineviable task of delving into the newest foray of half-articulated threats and circular logic. I can't believe that I haven't mentioned him by name before, but it should be mentioned that Lester Bagley has been the Viking's public voice on the stadium issue forever, and one assumes he gets tired of saying the things he has to say.
Let's delve in!
1. Lester Bagley says the threatened lockout shouldn't affect talks for public funding of a new stadium. Why shouldn't it? Bagley doesn't really explain why; he just says, "We've been facing excuses and reasons not to proceed for 10 years." The fact that they are completely valid reasons doesn't seem to enter the equation for Bagley. If the owners get their way, they are about to get a whole lot richer--they are trying, after all, to remove a full billion dollars from the revenue pool that they currently share with players. That's a lot of cash, isn't it? Shouldn't that affect what the public does with their money, at least a little bit? Especially considering the owners say they need that money to build new stadiums!
Very quickly, as this is a little off the point, but it bothers me when I see it in print--Duchschere writes that, "Team owners, who use $1 billion for operations, say they're financially stressed and want to reconfigure the remaining $7 billion that they split with the players. Owners want to reduce the players' portion from 59 percent to 41 percent."
This is a bit of sneaky math that the owners have used from the beginning, and I've discussed it before--the owners take their over $1 Billion out of the revenue pool, and then come up with that percentage--leave it in (as any honest broker would) and it's more like a 50/50 revenue split. So, anyway, let's move on to more exciting stuff Bagley says.
2. The Vikings say, through Bagley, that they are looking at ways to generate revenue via "user-based financing" (I'm sure they didn't coin the term--it's got the stink of a very carefully focus-group tested, NFL approved process). You might think he's referring to things like "Vikings tickets" or "revenue generated from advertising". No--he's talking about taxes levied by the state. There's a feeling out there, clearly, amongst NFL owners that the best chance they have of getting public financing is raising that money through super-regressive taxes.
That's been true in the past, but let's be honest--taxes on hotel stays, or starting up new Viking based lottery tickets are not fees directed at the people most likely to go to the new stadium when it opens. The people most likely to pay the "user-based financing" are poor people and tourists. Hey, good people can behind squeezing the poor and suckers from out of town, can't we? Bagley also generously says that the Vikings could get on board with casinos and slots to raise the money. How nice of him!
3. This might be my favorite paragraph of the whole article: "Latest estimates put the price of a new stadium with a retractable roof at nearly $900 million.The Vikings have said that they don't need a roof and wouldn't pay for it. But Bagley said Tuesday that "there is strong support across the state for a multipurpose, year-round facility" and that "we need to have the important conversation about how to pay for the roof."
You know what this reminds me of? Do you have a cheap buddy? You got to Taco Bell--you get a Pepsi, he says, "You know what, I don't need a soda--I'll just grab a water." And then later, after you finish your drink he says, "Hey--you get free refills, right? Can I grab a soda?" And you just kind of shake your head at him? That's what the Vikings are doing right here, but with a $100 Million Dollar Roof.
Read that statement from the Vikings again--they don't need a roof, so they won't pay for one, but the facility itself will clearly need a roof, but it should be public money that builds it, even as the Vikings are passing the hat around begging for money to build the thing in the first place. That kind of logic makes me want to laugh out loud, except that it is so cynical and is so dishonest that I don't know what to think. The Vikings are saying that they don't need a retractable roof stadium? That they just need a big dome?
Because they already have one. And I know they aren't arguing for an open-air stadium, not when one of the arguments for a new stadium to be trotted out at some point will be that a new stadium will give them a shot at hosting a Super Bowl (which I've also discussed). So if the public does pay for the retractable stadium, will the Vikings agree to always leave it open? Or always closed?
Remember that when Lester Bagley says, "But we can't afford to let the Vikings become a free agent," that he works for the fucking Vikings, not whoever "we" is.
We can have an honest discussion about a new stadium--I'll be the first to admit that the Metrodome is one of the saddest places I've ever been to watch a sporting event--but it isn't an emergency situation, as much as the Vikings want it to seem like one.
An honest discussion needs to be honest--calling for taxes on poor people by calling them "user-based" finances isn't honest; saying the Vikings don't need and won't pay for a roof isn't honest; claiming that a looming massive labor problem isn't a problem isn't honest; and talking about the great things a new stadium brings without acknowledging that raising $600-$800 million dollars from the public trust could be used to create jobs in any number of ways that are more efficient than handing that money over to a billionaire isn't freaking honest.