Editorial: Was the team fumbled away?

Published 7:31 am Monday, February 1, 2010

Is it possible Minnesota fumbled away a whole lot more than just a football game last Sunday, albeit one of the biggest games in Vikings’ franchise history?

It’s no secret the Vikings’ lease to play in the outdated, revenue-flat Metrodome expires at the end of the 2011 season, just 20 games from now. And it’s no secret the Vikings have been clamoring for years to strike a public-private financing deal to build a new stadium in the Twin Cities.

A trip to the Super Bowl and to the top of the National Football League could have garnered the team unprecedented love and leverage this legislative session in St. Paul, where stadium overtures have long received chilly-at-best responses.

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And likely to be chillier, not only because the Vikings lost another heartbreaker but because of the current state of the state’s budget — not to mention the overall economy.

To their credit, Vikings owners, including Zygi Wilf, have pledged $250 million, about a third of the overall price tag, for a new football stadium to replace the Metrodome. And if that isn’t enough, “Well then, what is?” Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said in an interview last year with the News Tribune Opinion page.

The Vikings rank last in the league now in revenue from their stadium. They won’t accept that much longer. “At some point, the Wilfs will throw in the towel. They will sell the team,” Bagley said. “That’s the danger. Other markets are out there.”

Does Minnesota still want its Vikings? Does the state still want to be an NFL market? If so, a stadium-financing deal that benefits the team and that makes sense to taxpayers has to be found. Soon.

“It’s time to do something. This is long overdue,” Bagley said. And he said that an entire football season ago.

— Duluth News Tribune, Jan. 28