Fine print in Vikings deal leaves little to chance
Published 9:15 am Tuesday, October 8, 2013
ST. PAUL — Decode the legalese and the 222-page lease agreement binding the Minnesota Vikings to 30 years or more in their soon-to-be-built stadium shows in great detail who calls the shots, who gets to cash in and who can use the place when the football team isn’t.
The finer points of the agreement, approved Thursday by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, were overshadowed last week by attention to the average $2,500 seat license fee that season ticketholders must pay. Up close, though, the lease leaves little to chance.
The name game
In professional sports, stadium names are a big-buck enterprise. Department store retailer Target paid many millions for the namesakes of the Twins’ and Timberwolves’ homes. Xcel Energy Inc. has its name atop the Wild’s hockey arena.
The Vikings will have the exclusive right to sell and profit from a pair of naming-rights deals for the new stadium and adjacent fan plaza. The contract disallows any name connected to a tobacco company, firearms firm or political entity, and gives the authority some veto power. Twin Cities-based corporations are considered pre-approved.
The windfall clause
The stadium is expected to handsomely increase the value of the franchise, so the lease guards against any attempt by owners Mark and Zygi Wilf to cash out quick. If they do unload a majority stake in the team, they’ll have to split the profits with the public.
The state of Minnesota and city of Minneapolis are in line for a windfall payment that diminishes over time. If a sale happened before May 2022, the owners would forfeit a quarter of their “premium,” defined as the increment above what they paid for the club. The windfall amount drops some over the next decade. If the Wilfs keep the team beyond May 14, 2032, they keep all profits from a sale after that.
While the Vikings score from advertising and concessions revenue on game days, they are on the hook for annual rent. It starts at $8.5 million the year the stadium opens — 2016 is the goal — and climbs 3 percent a year until reaching $20 million in Year 30. Additionally, the team must put $1.5 million into a capital improvement account in Year One; that gradually rises to $3.5 million by the 30th year.
The Vikings pledged to put 3,250 “affordable” tickets out on the market for each game, out of 65,000. What’s affordable? That depends on how much other seats cost. In short, affordable tickets can be no more than 80 percent of the average cost in the lowest-priced section, and obstructed view or standing room only tickets can’t be factored in.
The Vikings must help convince other NFL owners to bring the Super Bowl to Minnesota “as soon as reasonably practical” — the earliest it would happen is 2018. Minneapolis last hosted it in 1992.
That’s far from the only Super Bowl reference in the pact. If the Vikings were to win a championship, they’re assured of having the “absolute right” to clear the stadium’s schedule to accommodate the NFL’s traditional weeknight kickoff of the following season, which features the reigning champion.
Home away from home
This season, one of the Vikings’ eight “home” games was in London. The lease gives them to right to play up to six international “home” games over the next 30 years without penalty or having to make up for lost revenue. The team will still be on the hook for its full annual rent.
The Vikings can be the visiting team for as many international games as the NFL schedules.
The authority will operate and keep profits from year-round stadium tour tickets. “Special access tours” will include peeks inside the locker rooms and training areas. If the Vikings suspend access to those areas, the authority has recourse, too: It no longer has to end the tours in the team store.
For the 350-plus days the Vikings aren’t playing, the stadium can be used for a range of events — from rock concerts to fantasy football days to amateur sports competitions to political conventions. But not everything goes: There’ll be no events that sell guns, adults-only entertainment and periodicals, pawn-style offerings or head shop paraphernalia.