Hartman: Cost of operating NFL teams soaring

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 19, 2011 - 11:39 PM

The need for a new Vikings stadium becomes clear when examining financial issues facing the Packers.

You might have noticed that neither the Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, nor NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made any threats about moving the team if the Vikings do not get a new stadium.

But the truth is, Zygi and Mark Wilf won't have any choice but to either move or sell the team if they don't get a stadium that will help the Vikings compete financially in signing players and operating the franchise in a first-class way.

The Wilfs now show a profit only because they received about $25 million a year in revenue sharing, money contributed by the big profit-making clubs, such as Washington, the two New York teams and Dallas.

However, such owners as Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Dan Snyder of the Redskins are fighting to eliminate the revenue sharing and, to date, it has been a big battle with a close vote among the owners to keep it.

The cost of operating an NFL team has risen, and a good example is the financial operation of the Packers, the only team in the league that is publicly held and thus releases a statement each year. No doubt the Vikings, with a limited attendance capacity, no parking income, high rent and other factors, are facing the same problems.

Packers' profits fall

According to their financial statement, the Packers' operating profit fell 71 percent in four years, from $34.2 million in the budget year ending March 31, 2007, to $9.8 million in the year ending March 31.

The major reason for the big drop in profit was player costs. For instance, the Packers' player costs jumped from $110.7 million to $160.8 million this past year.

Mark Murphy, Packers president, told the New York Times, "Our player costs are growing at twice the rate our revenue is growing."

Packers officials claim they would be losing a lot of money had they not spent $295 million to expand the stadium in 2003.

The Packers financed the last stadium expansion (12,000 seats) with a combination of a half-percent Brown County sales tax, a user fee on seat holders, an NFL loan and a stock sale. Now the Packers are talking of adding 7,500 seats to bring capacity to nearly 81,000.

Apparently, Packers officials believe they need the capacity to compete.

Losses can't continue

There is a Vikings stadium proposed for Arden Hills, a site that has land available to match what the Packers have in Green Bay. This is why the Wilfs are so excited about it.

But no doubt two other projected sites in Minneapolis, at the Metrodome and at the Farmers Market, could also provide a lot of the additional financial income that would provide the Wilfs with the profit to compete.

The site is not the big deal. But there needs to be a new stadium. There is no way the Wilfs can continue to play at the Metrodome and not consider selling or moving the team. They would operate with a big loss, and that is not something they are going to do.

Injuries hurt Gophers

The Gophers men's track team had a 20-point lead and seemed headed for its sixth consecutive Big Ten title Sunday before host Iowa edged it by 2 1/2 points. It had to be heartbreaking for Gophers coach Steve Plasencia, whose team had won three indoor titles and two outdoor titles in a row.

"We've had better days," he said. "We had a few areas where things didn't go exactly as we hoped."

Pole vaulter Ben Peterson (ankle) and shot putter Aaron Studt (back) were hampered by injuries, and distance runner Ben Blankenship was taking a redshirt outdoor season. Peterson was NCAA runner-up indoors this season in the pole vault but finished eighth last weekend, and Studt was national runner-up in the shot put indoors in 2009 and a four-time Big Ten champion, but he finished ninth Sunday.

Now Plasencia is pointing to the NCAA West Regional, where 24 Gophers will take part May 26-28 in hopes of advancing to the NCAA Championships on June 8-11 in Des Moines.

"Last year we didn't score a point outdoors [at the NCAA]," Plasencia said. "We were sixth indoors this year, so we had a strong showing at the NCAA Indoors, and I'm hoping we can get back into that top 15, top 20 again."

The Gophers women's track team has 16 athletes who have qualified for the NCAA regional.

Jottings

• Bill Musselman predicted big things for Tom Thibodeau when Musselman coached the Timberwolves and Thibodeau was an assistant in the first two years of the Wolves franchise. Now Thibodeau is the NBA Coach of the Year and has the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.

• Interestingly, during the 1990-91 season Musselman and Thibodeau coached Scott Brooks, who was a reserve guard for the Wolves. Brooks is now the coach at Oklahoma City, which is playing Dallas in the Western Conference finals.

• Former Gophers standout Ryan Potulny still leads the American Hockey League in playoff scoring with 14 goals and 11 assists in 17 games for Binghamton, which advanced to the Calder Cup finals after a four-game sweep of Charlotte. The Senators will play either the Wild's top farm club, Houston, or Hamilton. Houston has a 3-1 lead in the series and will play host to Game 5 Friday night.

• Mikias Alipate, the younger brother of Gophers quarterback Moses Alipate, will be playing at Holy Angels next fall after transferring from Bloomington Jefferson last year. That's the exact opposite transfer his brother made in high school. Rivals.com named Mikias, a linebacker, one of the players to watch for the 2013 senior class.

• Yuba Community College point guard Julian Welch, who will play with Gophers next year as a junior college transfer, was named the Bay Valley Conference MVP and was named first-team all-state in the California Community College Athletic Association.

• Gophers freshman Austin Hollins is one of 10 Division I players traveling to the Far East from May 17-31 with Reach USA, an evangelical Christian organization, as a cultural exchange trip. The Reach USA team will face a team from Lithuania seven times and an all-star team from Brazil twice.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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