JUST A QUICK NOTE TO TELL YOU the Vikings think we’re stupid, and that at this point it’s hard to disagree. The state that once unceremoniously escorted the James Gang back to Missouri has rolled over meekly for another unscrupulous family, this time in the name of football, but for a considerably heftier sum that continues to grow.
And before anyone gets their undies in a bunch over “unscrupulous,” this assessment is legally binding (see: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_23872388/minnesota-vikings-states-wilf-audit-should-take-weeks).
After securing $500 million* in public subsidies from Minnesota taxpayers for a new stadium, the Wilfs – or if it makes you feel better, the Vikings – managed last week to get another $100 million out of fans in the form personal seat licenses that will average $2,500. According to Doug Belden’s report in the Pioneer Press (http://www.twincities.com/politics/ci_24232134/minnesota-vikings-stadium-deal-goes-before-public-panel), the one-time fee will apply to 75 percent of the seats in the new stadium, slated to open in time for the 2016 season.
Bottom line, the Wilfs’ $477 million share of stadium financing now stands – after an NFL loan and the seat licensing agreement – at roughly $177 million. This is perfectly legal, and smart if you can find a state dumb enough to agree. It’s funny to watch Gov. Mark Dayton choke this down. No stranger to being rich, even he is embarrassed by the whole thing. In every photo of Dayton shaking Zygi Wilf’s hand, the governor has a look on his face that says, “I’m going to be sorry this was captured for posterity.”
The whole racketeering/fraud thing was clearly a kick in the nuts for Dayton, who frankly should have known it was coming, and he immediately asked the Stadium Authority to audit the Wilfs’ books to make sure they were good for the money. But the job of an audit is to determine whether your business partners have the money, not whether they are really the kind of guys you want to be in business with.
I wrote what may have been the first newspaper report in which the Vikings made clear their intentions to strong-arm Minnesotans into a new stadium – look, here it is http://www.twincities.com/ci_13458646 – and at the time I talked to a lot of locals who behind the curtain said things like, “This just isn’t how we do business here.” In September 2009, I felt it was true but maybe not fair, a typically provincial Minnesota thing to say. Not everyone has to do things the way we do. Hindsight tells us they were on to something.
Anyway, what started me reminiscing was the Vikings’ decision last week to ban reporters from the Metrodome sideline before games. This was really the only time and place reporters had access to the owners who were asking you for $500 million to build their business a new home. Reporters, BTW, are really YOUR only access to these people, too. The official reason from the Vikings is “increased traffic and limited space on the Vikings sideline.” This didn’t seem to be a problem when the Wilfs wanted your money; now that they have it, it appears they just don’t want to be bothered.
* $348 million from the state, $150 million from Minneapolis