Workers have been waterproofing the upper deck to prevent leakage on the main concourse at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

Lessons of stadium diplomacy are lost on Vikings

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE
  • Star Tribune
  • January 16, 2011 - 10:03 PM

The Vikings were back in form last week, again dictating to the public, the politicians and the bureaucrats the extent to which they would participate in building a new home in which to conduct business.

It is time for someone with clout -- perhaps the new governor, Mark Dayton -- to tell these beggars that they will not be permitted to be so choosy.

The Twins were on the make starting in the mid-'90s for a new ballpark with a retractable roof. The Twins went through the traditional hollow-threat mode for several years. The last of those was the contraction mess in the winter of 2001-02.

That was the P.R. disaster that caused the Twins to smarten up. Jerry Bell was replaced by Dave St. Peter as team president, and then Bell -- a man of humor, calm and connections -- went to work full-time on finding a path to a new ballpark.

A gentleman involved in stadium politics (but with no connection to either team) said Saturday: "For the most part, the Twins stopped negotiating in public. When there was a setback, Jerry Bell didn't pout. He just kept talking to people, and trying to make the case."

Always, the roadblock had been the inability to find the source for the public's share of the funding. On April 26, 2005, the Twins and Hennepin County announced a deal based on the team's home county adding 0.15 to its sales tax.

The Legislature failed to pass the necessary bill before the end of that session. Bell and the Twins didn't pout. They gained legislative approval a year later, when a bill passed on May 21, 2006.

And when asked one last time, "How about the retractable roof?" Bell repeated his view:

"We took the best deal we could get. And now we're going to build a great outdoor ballpark."

Hennepin County's share was capped at $350 million: $260 million for two-thirds of the ballpark cost, and $90 million for infrastructure. The Twins were supposed to be in for $130 million, or one-third of the ballpark.

It didn't turn out that way. The Pohlad family provided $15 million to cover an overrun in infrastructure, and then $50 million to improve on the original design for Target Field.

"All in, ballpark and infrastructure, the cost when Target Field opened was $545 million," St. Peter said. "And our share of that was $195 million.''

That's 36 percent of the entire project. And if you went ballpark alone, the Twins paid $180 million for a $440 million facility, or 41 percent.

The Twins were seven years (1995-2002) into the stadium campaign when they stopped dictating and threatening and started working with people. The Vikings are more than a decade (2000-2011) into their stadium campaign and they remain in the dictating/threatening mode.

Last week, Lester Bagley -- charge d'threats for Red McCombs and now Zygmunt Wilf -- repeated what has become the Big Lie:

A domed stadium offers no benefit to the Vikings, so they will duplicate the Twins' deal and cap the team's cost at one-third of an outdoor stadium.

Come on, Zygmunt: I know you New Jersey guys are lot sharper than us, but we aren't complete, drooling idiots out here on the frozen prairie.

We know that you know that a second new football stadium in the Twin Cities only makes sense (and only would be approved at the Legislature) with a roof. And you should know that we know that the only reason you're having your lackey Lester talk about the splendor of outdoor football is that you're too darn cheap to pay a legitimate share of the project.

The plan co-authored with the sports facilities commission in 2007 listed costs as $660 million for a stadium, $200 million for a retractable roof, and $25 million less for a fixed roof. You boys from Jersey also wanted a $58 million parking ramp to hold premium ticketholders on game days, but presumably that's out of the picture.

The stadium guy I talked to on Saturday said today's cost for that stadium is $900 million -- or, roughly, $690 million without a roof.

So, that's the deal, Zygmunt:

The only feasible answer from a community standpoint to replace the Metrodome is with a much better dome, and you're going to offer us $230 million for a $900 million project?

You have a franchise in the most profitable sports league in history and you're going to offer us 26 percent for a project that would give the Vikings everything an NFL team could want, when the Twins came up with 36 percent for a project that provided the best the ballclub could get?

We're admittedly naïve out here, Zygmunt, but we aren't that stupid.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. •

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