If you’re in Minnesota you likely know about the “vote” being taken by our “representatives” at the Capitol regarding the Vikings Stadium. I use the word vote in quotation marks because this isn’t a vote, it’s a formality. The bottom line is this stadium was ensured to be built the second Zygi Wilf, the owner of the Vikings, said he wanted the state to fork over a large part of the stadium’s cost. Zygi is a politically well-connected billionaire meaning anything Zygi wants Zygi will get, he merely needs to make the right deal. Apparently he made the right deal since the Minnesota House voted in favor of the stadium:
The Minnesota Vikings won a decisive and long-awaited political victory late Monday when the House passed a public subsidy package for a new stadium, sending the project marching toward final passage at the State Capitol.
When the final vote was announced, two dozen Vikings fans — most clad in team jerseys — cheered loudly outside the House chamber and sang the team’s fight song. Afterward, amid chants of “Build A Stadium, Save Our Team!” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak made his way through the crowd and was congratulated by smiling fans.
The final vote came after a day of high drama and a weekend of intense lobbying by Gov. Mark Dayton and the team, and produced a relatively easy 73-to-58 approval in the House. Though Republicans hold a majority in the House, DFLers did the heavy political lifting on the final vote, producing 40 of the 73 votes. The victory was also noteworthy because House Speaker Kurt Zellers — the leading Republican in the House — voted against the project.
There is much to be said about this entire fiasco. First let me address the rampant hypocrisy involved in this decision. Many people who are demanding the state pay a chunk of the stadium are also demanding the state tax the wealthy more. In fact the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL) is usually the party working to increase taxes on the wealthy yet were the ones to vote most favorably towards a publicly funded stadium. The hypocrisy is almost palpable, they just voted to give a bunch of money to a billionaire. Perhaps they believe the state should tax the wealthy more but subsidize the super wealthy?
Outside of the hypocrisy a question must be asked: what do the Vikings have to offer the politicians? Deals like these must be mutually beneficially and therefore Zygi must offer something of value to get his subsidy. Unfortunately these deals are always performed behind closed doors and thus we never learn about them until after the fact. Beyond campaign contributions I believe another thing of value was likely offered, jobs. When things were looking bleak for the Vikings stadium deal the National Football League (NFL) entered the game. What does the NFL consistently try to do? Get public funding for stadiums. What do you need to get consistent public funding? Lobbyists. As a general rule politicians are often offered plush lobbying positions by large corporations for favorable legislation so I wouldn’t be surprised to see several prominent Minnesota “representatives” receive jobs with the NFL after they exit politics.
What’s done is done. I am merely a commentator and thus have no power to influence the game, but I do have the ability to make some predictions. It’s no secret that the economy is getting worse, which would make an intelligent person ask why the Vikings want to build a new stadium now. With a crumbling economy won’t people become less willing to buy tickets to see a game? Of course. Does it matter to the Vikings? Absolutely not. Why? Because the same arguments they use to get public funding for a new stadium can be used to get ticket prices subsidized.
Zygi Wilf isn’t an idiot and thus has likely already come up with the same idea I’m about to present. Throughout this entire stadium fiasco the primary argument used by proponents of public funding for the stadium have been based on supposed economic benefits brought by the Vikings. The beauty of such arguments is they can be used to justify almost any subsidy. Let’s step ahead several years where further economic failures have caused ticket sales at Vikings games to falter. Zygi, seeing his profits plument, has decided he needs another subsidy. How can he sell it? Easy. All it has to do is tell the politicians that he will sell off the Vikings if they fail to be profitable. Such a sale would cause them to move elsewhere and thus deprive Minnesota of the economic benefit the team supposedly brings. Since the Minnesota economy is already at a very vulnerable point the loss of the Vikings will cause complete collapse and therefore the economy of Minnesota depends on subsidized ticket prices from the state. Using this argument the politicians will vote to subsidize some arbitrarily chosen percentage of ticket prices so more fans can enjoy the games and the Vikings can remain profitable. It’s all for the greater good after all.
Many people reading that likely scoffed and rolled their eyes but I believe my prediction is pretty sound. We must only wait and see (and if it does happen I’m going to be doing the biggest “I told you so” dance anybody has ever seen).