Minnesota Governor Threatens Vikings Owners Not To Pass Along Stadium Cost Through PSLs
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton yesterday “threatened to undo the historic and hard-fought deal" to build a new Vikings stadium if team Owners the Wilf family "insist on passing on to fans a portion of the team's share" of the $975M cost, according to Meryhew & Helgeson of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. In a “sternly worded letter to the team owners, the governor objected to a proposal to charge seat-licensing fees in exchange for premier seating choices.” But the Wilf family “stood their ground on the issue, saying that seat licensing was included in the final agreement passed by the Legislature.” The issue has “erupted as team owners and local officials are already dealing with a tight deadline for the complex construction project.” The stadium financing legislation approved last spring “stipulates that revenue generated from the seat licenses would go toward the Vikings' share of the construction cost.” The legislation “gives the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is working with the team to oversee development of the project, the right to own and sell the seat licenses, although the revenue would go to the Vikings.” Dayton said that he would “press authority members not to sell the licenses,” and he would “go back to the Legislature” if that move proves futile. The Vikings have “consistently expressed interest in the seat license concept, but have never committed themselves to it” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/14). MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said that the authority “began receiving angry calls Friday from season ticket holders who had received a survey from the team asking if they would be willing to pay ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ for a seat license, instead of $1,000 to $2,000.” Kelm-Helgen said, "I do think that, generally speaking, everyone in the Legislature was aware that (seat licenses) would be an option that the team would explore" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 11/14).
WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT? In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan writes, “You can argue that Dayton could have foreseen this development, that he is now arguing against the language of the very deal he signed. That's true.” Now Dayton is “acting as an advocate for non-rich Minnesotans as the Wilfs survey fans about their willingness to pay for PSLs all over the stadium,” and he is “doing his job.” Zygi Wilf can justify the PSLs “because of the language of the agreement,” but that “doesn't make it right.” Souhan: “Wilf should invest a chunk of his own money. ... You got a good deal, Mr. Wilf. Dayton's right. It's time for you to ante up” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/14). But ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert wrote there are “some major holes in what is really just a sloppy political maneuver.” The first is the stadium legislation Dayton signed last spring, which “explicitly gave the Vikings clearance to sell PSLs" through the MSFA. Further, it allows them to “count the revenues toward its share of construction costs.” Dayton’s “threat is silly and hollow when you realize he already agreed to what he is now protesting.” If he "felt so strongly about PSLs, he should have taken a stand during final negotiations.” PSLs are “fair game based on the legislation.” Seifert: “What made Dayton or anyone else think the Vikings wouldn't use them?” (ESPN.com, 11/13).