Souhan: No point in dumbing down stadium issue

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 18, 2012 - 5:19 PM

Asking why the state should help out a billionaire owner is shamelesssly pandering without addressing legitimate issues.

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Rep. Dean Urdahl and Vikings President Mark Wilf in January

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A clarification of this column is appended at the bottom.

Give Dean Urdahl credit. The man is a poet. Monday night, he evoked the likes of T.S. Eliot and Tupac, packing worlds of meaning into a handful of words.

"Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire owner?" he asked.

Urdahl is a Republican representative from Grove City, and he did us all a favor by starting a key House panel meeting with that question.

Here's what the question revealed:

• Some of our elected officials are often no smarter than the guy who writes in the comments section of an online newspaper, "Your stupid."

The "building playgrounds for billionaires and millionaires" line is as old as Jamie Moyer. It cynically panders to all of us who are not millionaires or billionaires, a safe if cowardly strategy. Urdahl has studied the stadium issue for years, and he comes up with a question a third-grader would ask?

There are no major sports teams that are not owned by billionaires, or that do not employ millionaires. Ruling out building a stadium that could benefit a billionaire is like ruling out building roads for all those elitists who own cars.

• Politicians like Urdahl are counting on you being as shallow as they are.

Urdahl ignored all of the legitimate concerns about building a stadium for the Vikings, all of the complications that accompany the serpentine negotiations that result in any public-private partnership, and reduced the dialogue to something you might hear from a drunk at closing time.

You want to argue that gambling money should not be used to build a stadium? Fine. I respect those who align themselves against gambling because they believe it functions as a poverty tax.

There are many principled stands you can take against using public money for a new stadium. Taking a melodramatic stand against billionaires who own sports teams is not one of them.

• Ruling out financial aid to an owner in this case leads to one result: The Vikings leaving Minnesota. History tells us that if a beloved team leaves a major market, it will be replaced at triple or more the cost or more of retaining the original team.

Never again will the state of Minnesota receive a contribution of $427 million to build a billion-dollar stadium. The price of stadiums will rise, and acquiring a new team will require either a transfer fee or an expansion fee along with the price of a new stadium.

Instead of being asked to come up with a few hundred million dollars to protect a state asset, Minnesota would be asked to come up with billions. And it would. Urdahl should be asked to pay the difference.

• Urdahl and those like him perhaps do not grasp that the Los Angeles Dodgers just sold for $2 billion. An NFL team in Los Angeles would be worth billions now and more billions in the future. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf might now regard moving the team as a forgone conclusion rather than a last resort.

• This is not a partisan issue, and neither party is covering itself in glory, but Urdahl should recognize that he has marked himself as a Republican who is trying to kill a jobs and economic stimulus project.

Forget whether the Twins are winning or losing in any given year: Target Field is a remarkable success story that has invigorated downtown Minneapolis and the North Loop while costing taxpayers less than what I just remembered I keep in my change receptacle in my car armrest.

A new Vikings stadium on the south side of downtown would do the same for that portion of our city.

Don't compare it to the Metrodome, which was built on the cheap and was never an attraction for any reason other than the teams it contained. A new Vikings stadium would, like Target Field, become a destination, another bragging point for Minnesota residents and job recruiters.

I can respectfully disagree with politicians who take consistent, principled, stands against stadiums. Those like Urdahl who shamelessly pander to the simple-minded people should not be taken seriously.

Next time you ask a question about the stadium, Mr. Urdahl, please get help from someone with a better grasp of stadium politics, like, oh, a Kardashian.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

Clarification: This column did not mention that Rep. Dean Urdahl voted in favor of the stadium Monday night as a member of the House Government Operations and Elections Committee.

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