Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's stopping Zygi Wilf from building a new stadium?

I do not entirely oppose public funding for private stadiums (though I believe states and cities should demand something substantive in return for the public money).  But I am fed up with the language used by owners and commissioners who want the new stadiums.

In the Star Tribune, Roger Goodell talks about the importance of getting a new Viking stadium in Minnesota.    And perhaps it is important.  But if it is so important, then Zygi Wilf can go ahead and build a new Viking stadium.  I don't know that anybody is actively trying to prevent him from doing so.  It is not as if the state of Minnesota is putting up roadblocks to stop a private businessman from building a profit-making building with his own money.  What Goodell really wants, of course, is for the state to give Wilf public money to build the stadium.  You know, money that could otherwise be used for matters such as transportation, education, health care, and other necessary programs that benefit a wide variety of Minnesotans.

For example, Goodell says:

"I think we have to continue to work with the governor and the leadership in that community to understand those priorities and figure out how we get a new stadium built. That is necessary for the Vikings. We all want the Vikings to be there in the long term, successfully. They need a new stadium, that's clear. I think it's recognized by all parties and we need to get down to the difficult business of figuring out how to do it."

Is it hard to figure out how to get the new stadium?  I'll make a proposal: Viking ownership invests money into its business to build a profit-making building for that private business.  The real challenge on how to do it will actually be up to the architects, engineers, construction crews, etc., that Zygi Wilf hires to build his profit-making building.  

Goodell uses euphemism to distort what he really wants.  When he says "we have to continue to work with the governor and the leadership in that community," he makes it seem as if they must work hard together in a spirit of cooperation to get things done.  But we can easily define what he's doing differently: he's lobbying for taxpayer money to be used to build a very expensive building for a private business that makes a lot of money in profits.

I think we can use different--but still accurate--terminology when talking about building a new stadium in Minnesota.  If we do that, the perspective changes drastically.  Instead of "stadium," would say "profit-making building for a private business."  Instead of "work with the governor and legislators," I'd say "find a way to get politicians to approve of giving away taxpayer money."  And when Goodell talks about "priorities of the community," we could say "a stadium versus better funding for public schools, improved roads and mass transit, and other necessities and benefits that help millions of Minnesotans."

I don't oppose building a new Viking stadium, and I do recognize the benefits to the community that may justify using public financing for the stadium.  But I'm tired of the euphemism.  Nobody is stopping Zygi Wilf from building a stadium.  Don't pretend that you need support to build the stadium, when what you really want is support to take our money to help build the stadium for you.


  1. To the Artist Formerly Known as PV:

    I don't even live in Minnesota (or the U.S.) and even I find this annoying. I think Baltimore may have been the first city to use taxpayer money to build a single-use football palace. Now every NFL owner wants one.

    In Yellowknife where I live (google it if you wish), we've been arguing for almost 10 years about whether the city should use public money to build an indoor soccer pitch. It is finally going to get built and my taxes will go up because of it. But it will also be used by thousands of kids and adults during it's lifetime, be open seven days a week, promote healthy lifesyles and give citizens another valuable indoor facility they can use in a place where its winter seven months of the year. It will be an asset and a good use of taxpayer dollars.

    What will Twin Cities residents get out of this football stadium if Wilf gets his way and your taxpayer dollars are used to build it?

    A lot of Minnesotans love the Vikings but I suspect most don't love them that much.

  2. Anonymous3:53 PM

    5 years ago I would have been arguing that it is necessary for Minnesota to help fund this football stadium. But that was when I was 24 with no children and not really thinking about what all gets cared for by tax money.

    But now things are different and we are in a recession and the state of Minnesota is having to cut public funding to valuable services that support a far wider demographic than football fans in order to balance a budget. Would Minnesota be hurt by losing the Vikings? Yes, there is tax revenue in that and it is a huge business. But how many new business enterprises could flourish by offering small business tax breaks having the same net effect upon the budget?

    I guess I am sick of seeing a multi-billion dollar private enterprise and its cohorts trying to beg to use my tax money to help their business when I see children without healthcare and families losing their homes.

  3. Anonymous4:44 PM

    Agreed. This kind of lemon socialism (socialize the losses, privatize the profits) may be all the rage, but it still is a raw deal.

    What's galling is that the Vikings spurned the opportunity to football stadium with the Gophers. They were transparently unwilling to have the taxpayers build them a stadium that would feature revenue streams they would have to share with the U.

    Maybe if the Vikings wait 15 years like the Twins did the legislature can throw them a bone. Maybe.

  4. Anonymous11:51 AM

    The NFL will hold a city ransom to benefit themselves, ask the citizens of Arizona, who were told by the NFL that the league would "love" to have them on a five year rotation with Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, etc. for the Superbowl.

    BUT, only if they were willing to build a state of the art facility for the Cardinals, that the league could host the Superbowl in. No stadium, No more Superbowl.

    Well, 5 or 6 hundred million tax dollars later, we are a host. The Bidwell family only put up a small fraction (50 Mil.) and that is the third facility the tax payers of AZ have had to float, along with America West Arena (now U.S. Air Arena) and Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field).

    We get nothing from these facilities, except civic pride, I guess. All revenue is going somewhere else.

    Prior to the stadium being built, the Bidwell's threatened to move the franchise at every opportunity that presented itself, literally for years. Sound familiar Minnesota?

    I swear I heard during a Vikings broadcast last year that the Zigster would "hate to move the franchise", that is the typical threat we heard out here for years.

    The question should be put to a vote to the citizens of the State of Minnesota, let the people of Minnesota decide if they want to participate in the stadium issue.

    At least it won't feel like your arm is being twisted behind your backs by the NFL or team management.

  5. Anonymous6:21 PM

    Personally being from Minnesota and seeing how much our children's education and health care is suffering right now I think the idea of building another stadium is outrageous!! The fact that that question is even popping up is ridiculous. What are the taxpayers getting out of this?? NOTHING!! We have to pay even more money to see the Twins play..which isn't all that exciting if you keep up with them. We should get discounted tickets, food, a free tshirt...anything to say "Thank you Minnesotans for putting up your hard earned money for a profit we will never see anything of!" Here's an idea lets cut professional salary by 1% and use that money for the stadiums! They make ridiculously too much money anyway.
    Sincerely, Warroad resident!!

  6. I have an idea I am going to present to Zygi Wilf, Brad Childress and a member of the present Minnesota Vikings , a Jared Allen. I am going to write letters to them all and also to the local TV Stations to remind them of RESPONSIBILITY IN JOURNALISM. It is not so much the STADIUM as to what is built around it that the PUBLIC will be like rabid dogs at a slaughter. In other words the PUBLIC will eat it up big time! Stay tuned and watch it happen!!!!!!!

  7. Anonymous4:48 PM

    Regarding the economics of Mussolini's fascist regime...

    "In actual fact, it is the State, i.e. the taxpayer, who has become responsible to private enterprise. In Fascist Italy the State pays for the blunders of private enterprise. As long as business was good, profit remained to private initiative. When the depression came, the Government added the loss to the tax-payer's burden. Profit is private and individual. Loss is public and social.
    . . . In December 1932 a Fascist financial expert, Signor Mazuchelli, estimated that more than 8.5 billion lire had been paid out by the Government from 1923 to 1932 in order to help depressed industries (Rivista Bancaria, December 15th, 1932, p.1,007). From December 1932 to 1935 the outlay must have doubled."

    --_Under the Axe of Fascism_, by Gaetano Salvemini, p. 416 (1936).