Hartman: Wilfs have several ties to California

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 3, 2012 - 10:59 PM

Had Glen Taylor gained control of the Vikings in 1998, the NFL team's place here would be a lot more secure.

Looking back to Red McCombs' purchase of the Vikings in 1998, had the group of 10 local stockholders who owned the team at the time kept their word and allowed Glen Taylor to match the price of any other buyer, the threat of the team moving would not be the concern it is today.

I'm sure this fact will be denied by some of those 10 former owners, but at the time, I know that Taylor was talking to friends about investing in the Vikings like they had done with him and the Timberwolves.

And Taylor, who at the time was upset by the actions of the Vikings board, doesn't like to talk about what happened.

Now the Vikings are owned by the Wilfs, who have no real serious connections in this area and don't have a personal stake in any Twin Cities businesses, but do have millions of dollars of real estate property in Southern California. And as residents of New Jersey, they don't have to be concerned about the problems the Pohlad family would have faced had the Pohlads allowed for the Twins to move or disband.

As I reported earlier, removing Jacksonville as a candidate to move to Los Angeles has made the Vikings a real candidate to move.

And as I reported earlier, the Jaguars, who play at a stadium initially funded to house the Gator Bowl, one that was soon remodeled when the city of Jacksonville was granted an NFL expansion team, can't move.

Wayne Weaver recently sold the Jaguars for $760 million to Shahid Khan, and because of Weaver's loyalty to the area, he insisted that the sale include a clause that kept the team from moving.

So if the Jaguars have a value of $760 million in a TV market ranked 50th in the nation, rest assured the Vikings, who play in the 15th-largest TV market, must have a value of at least $1 billion.

The Vikings recently made a call from its stockholders for $20 million, and while the Wilf family has never said no to the football executives to spend money to attract a great player such as Jared Allen, I have to believe there was a reason why the club signed only one top free agent this year in John Carlson for $5 million per season.

In the NFL, there's revenue sharing, and the Vikings get one of the biggest shares of any team. Owners of teams such as the Cowboys, Redskins and Broncos, unhappy with contributing a lot of money to the pot, have been trying to eliminate revenue sharing. And if the Vikings moved to Los Angeles, certainly those other teams would have to contribute less because the Vikings would be contributing to the pot instead of taking from it.

L.A. stadiums available

Although the odds are that the Vikings wouldn't move this year if they didn't get a favorable stadium vote, they could move to L.A. at any time because the Rose Bowl and the Los Angeles Coliseum are all available to be used until a new stadium is built.

I was involved when the Minneapolis Lakers were sold to Bob Short and later moved to Los Angeles because the Lakers didn't have a decent arena to stage the playoffs at the Minneapolis Auditorium, because the Builders Show, the Sportsman Show and other such events had first call at playoff time. The Lakers had to play the playoffs in the Armory or the old St. Paul Auditorium.

We lost the North Stars because of an inadequate building in the Met Center, and because the local politicians wouldn't do anything to correct that.

And Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner, original owners of the Timberwolves, had sold the team in 1994 to New Orleans' Top Rank Group, but thanks to NBA Commissioner David Stern, the team wasn't allowed to move. Taylor bought the team and never talked of moving, even though the Wolves have lost millions.

There isn't one member of the Legislature, who, if they owned the Vikings and were offered a huge profit to sell to someone who would move the team, wouldn't make the deal.

And what is hard to understand is why the geniuses over in St. Paul don't realize that the Vikings would use the stadium only 10 to 12 times a year, while the building could also attract Final Fours, Super Bowls and be used even more than the Metrodome.

I know how frustrated the members of the Wilf family are because the Twins and Gophers got stadiums while they have been left in the cold.

And history will repeat here the way the NFL played out in Baltimore and Cleveland. Those same members of the Legislature who refused to build a stadium to keep the Vikings here will spend twice the money to get another team and build a new stadium once they are gone.

Jottings

• Former Gophers wrestler Brock Lesnar has returned to the World Wrestling Entertainment. He has been dealing with serious health issues due to diverticulitis since 2009 and had to have surgery in 2011. Lesnar retired from mixed martial arts after losing at UFC 141 in December. In his return to the WWE, Lesnar lost to champion John Cena on Sunday.

Jimmy Gjere, the highly recruited Irondale offensive lineman who started the Gophers' first five games last year and then missed the rest of the season because of injury, missed spring practice, and there is some question whether the 6-7, 325-pounder will be able to play this fall.

• Defensive back Tramaine Brock, who signed with Tim Brewster and started 13 games for the Gophers before transferring to Belhaven, has re-signed with the San Francisco 49ers. He had two interceptions in the first two games of the 2011 season but then didn't record any defensive statistics again until Week 17.

• In the American Hockey League, former Gophers forward Taylor Matson had one assist in five playoff games for Chicago, which lost its best-of-five series 3-2 to San Antonio. Gabe Guentzel, son of Gophers assistant Mike, had one assist for Syracuse, which lost to St. John's in four games. Former Gophers winger Ryan Potulny tied for the Hershey lead in scoring with two goals and two assists, but his team lost to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in five games. ... Casey Wellman, traded from the Wild to the New York Rangers for Erik Christensen in February, is tied for the Connecticut lead in postseason points with one goal and four assists in four playoff games, all victories.

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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