COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Vikings Fumble Golden Opportunity

Updated: 12/13/2012 8:51 AM KSTP.com By: Phil Malat

Gov. Mark Dayton provided Zygi Wilf and the Minnesota Vikings with a golden opportunity to strengthen their image within the state. The opportunity in question was provided in the Governor’s November 13, 2012 letter which questioned the motivation behind the team exploring the establishment of personal seat licensing fees on Viking season ticket holders.

The Governor views this action as a ploy to lessen the Viking’s financial commitment to the construction of the new stadium. 

In the Governor’s mind the “stadium builder’s licenses” language in the agreement was never intended to extend to the creation of personal seat licensing fees to create an additional financial burden on Minnesota citizens beyond the $498 million taxpayer commitment made by the state and the city of Minneapolis. 

The Viking response to the Governor’s stern letter stated; “The stadium bill…includes provisions that expressly authorize the sale of stadium builder’s licenses and include the proceeds of any sale in the project budget.” Basically the Viking told the Governor they will interpret the licensing provision in their contractual agreement with the state anyway they see fit.

The Vikings response is most perplexing because they had several other options they could have employed. 

For example, they could have responded by stating the personal seat licensing fees would be used to offset or alleviate their long held concern over the additional financial burden of playing their games at the University of Minnesota while the new facility is under construction. 

It will cost the Vikings $250,000 per game as well as an additional $50,000 per game for concessions and sponsorship revenue. That total will equal $3 million per NFL season played at the U. They could have also pointed out that a portion of this money will be used to install heating coils under the playing surface at the university which will continue to benefit the school long after they move into their new facility.

Or they could have said that because of the additional $477 million commitment they are  concerned about being able to maintain their current generous level of charitable contributions within the state; or that they are concerned about the future salary structure and income levels for their support and administrative personnel; or that they would use the personal seat licensing fees to aid them in a determination as to the feasibility of turning the cover on the new stadium into a retractable roof. 

The construction cost objection here could have been deflected by pointing out that this is additional construction that goes beyond the projected $975 million cost and beyond the Vikings $477 million commitment and therefore the fees collected would not be reducing the size of the Vikings promised obligation.  

Any or all of this and more the Vikings could have said but instead they fumbled the ball away on their own goal line with a terse; “The stadium bill,… includes provisions that expressly authorize the sale of stadium builder’s licenses and include the proceeds of any sale in the project budget” - and in doing so, contributed mightily to the Governor’s conception or misconception that they are gaming the system for selfish gain.

The Vikings kicked away a golden opportunity to demonstrate their value to the general public, whose money they want so badly. There is of course the diehard sports fan portion of that general public. Those folks have long since demonstrated it would make no difference to them if the Vikings behaved as badly as Enron did. This certainly helps explain the nature of the Vikings response and more importantly explains why the Vikings have such a proud and confident demeanor even in spite of their less than stellar off field performance.  

Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com.