Editorial: Football stadium must go forward

Published 10:58 am Friday, August 30, 2013

The Minnesota Vikings play pro football in the 15th largest TV market in the United States. Because Los Angeles lacks a team, it makes the Twin Cities the 14th largest TV market among the NFL teams.

The Nielsen Sports Media Index says the Minnesota Vikings are the sixth most-popular team in the 32-team league.

Part of the reason the Vikings rank so high in Nielsen’s view is because the team regularly scores high TV ratings, especially considering the mid-level market size.

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Frankly, we Minnesotans — even non-football fans — observe this. What other show on TV empties the streets of cities in Minnesota week in and week out the way the Vikings do? That doesn’t happen in every NFL market, but we witness that here on Sundays in the fall.

There is money to be made for the NFL and its revenue-sharing owners by keeping a team in Minnesota. And there is money to be made for Minnesotans in the form of jobs, contracts, catering, concessions, broadcasting, sporting goods and generally giving fans what they need, such as how Albert Lea’s truck stops give food and gas to travelers headed north on game days.

There is money to be lost, too, should the NFL not have a team in Minnesota. The NFL, the owners of all the teams, and the people of Minnesota, all would have a gap in revenue that stems from this team. And Minnesotans would have a gap in a cherished Sunday tradition.

After all, that’s why Minnesotans wanted the Legislature to get a stadium deal done in 2012.

We urge lawmakers to be prudent as the state nears the time to issue bonds that pay for the stadium, especially in the wake of the legal trouble team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf have from dealings in the New Jersey real estate market. Gov. Mark Dayton ordered an inquiry into the Wilfs’ finances to give greater confidence in their dealings with the state. And Dayton was right to order the inquiry.

At the same time, lawmakers must keep in mind that any large project will have setbacks. The inquiry is one of them. There is no need to bring the entire project back before the Legislature, particularly when it already has been approved. Besides, the stadium funding already has oversight from the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy. Why have the larger body do the work of its committee?

We were glad to see the team owners and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority get back on track for contract negotiations for construction work on the stadium. We were disappointed the Wilfs had stepped away. They forget the contracts are a major selling point of building the stadium in the first place. We are talking jobs here.

The Wilfs need to be forthcoming, humble and just move through the red tape. We Minnesotans are, if nothing else, prudent, and though the Wilfs can play it tough in New Jersey, it is wise to just be patient in Minnesota. After all, they are getting a sizeable public subsidy. Set aside egos and keep the end result in mind.

Like we said, no one wants to move the Vikings. Get the contracts in place by Sept. 15, have a groundbreaking Nov. 7 and move forward with sensibility and pragmatism.