Last week the Star Tribune told the heartbreaking story of a retired private-college volleyball coach, whose few humble pleasures include spending $3,300 a year on choice 50-yard-line tickets to Minnesota Vikings games (“For Vikings fans, seat fee’s a real bell-ringer,” Oct 5).
It seems the coach is worried that meeting her basic pro football needs might cost a good deal more once Gov. Mark Dayton’s “People’s Stadium” opens in a couple of years. She frets that at the new, publicly subsidized pro sports cathedral, seats like hers won’t any longer be affordable for an “average person.”
Dayton, too, is all choked up about this cruel injustice to what the article called “the purple and gold faithful.” For a year now, the governor has indignantly (and ineffectually) decried the Vikings’ plan to sell “personal seat licenses” at the PS.
These licenses, priced between $500 and $10,000 each, will give fans the permanent right to buy season tickets for particular seats. An increasingly common feature at NFL stadia, such licenses can later be sold by fans who, say, move out of town or come to their senses. They might even turn out to be a profitable investment if the Vikings ever find a quarterback.
Even so, our ever-frugal governor questions the product’s value.
“As far as I’m concerned, personally, $1 for a personal seat license is $1 too much,” he said last week.
For once, I could not possibly agree more with Gov. Dayton. As a result, I shall never spend even a single dollar on a personal seat license. And nobody can make me. It’s a free country, after all.
Well, sort of. Somebody actually is forcing me to contribute to the building of the PS. That would be Dayton and the Legislature. I (like you, dear reader) must pay my share of the roughly $500 million in taxpayer dollars the politicians committed to the project — whether I like it or not.
And I can assure you that there are Minnesotans who like it even less than I do, largely because they care even less about football than I do.
Don’t get her started.
In the sweet spirit of compromise so sadly lacking in America today, I have made peace with an imperfect world. I support subsidizing the PS as a necessary evil and the right thing to do for our economy and community.
But those who disagree — those who care not a toot for big league sports or its supposed “broader benefits,” but still are being compelled to pay it tribute — should in all decency at least be spared the ridiculous spectacle of self-pitying Vikings fans and posturing politicians bleating for the basic human right to affordable seats on the 50-yard line.
If there is injustice involved in the People’s Stadium deal, it has been inflicted upon non-fan Minnesotans who are being dragooned into paying for a form of entertainment they care nothing about, or even actively dislike. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the “faithful” being asked to contribute every last farthing their Sunday worship services are worth to them.
If Dayton was so eager to lock horns with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, he should have driven a harder bargain on behalf of taxpayers. He’s done plenty, thank you — with taxpayers’ money — for Vikings devotees.
Fact is, the illogic and economic illiteracy on display in this whole discussion has reached such breathtaking heights that Zygi’s actions are almost being portrayed too harshly — which in theory is impossible.
Last week’s news story tells of a widely shared resentment “… that the team owners will reap so much from the license fees [and other stadium revenue] that they won’t have to put much of their own money into the project.”
Now what exactly is the allegation here? That the Vikings have a secret plan to extract enough money from their willing customers to cover their whole investment in the new facility?
Shocking, I’m sure. But we must face facts. One way or another, this is what every business does with every investment and every venture — at least if it means to stay in business.
You could almost define a “business” as an organization that seeks to induce willing customers to pay for every blessed thing it does — plus a little extra known to experts in the field as “profit.”
It’s true that firms sometimes finance investments, in whole or in part, with “their own money” — that is, with cash rather than debt or revenue from operations. But they do this only when, and only to the extent, that they come out ahead as a result.
Coming out ahead in the end is what makes any choice, in business terms, the right thing to do. Even department store fortunes are built that way.
But shouldn’t the Wilfs go the extra yard and be more generous than the typical business, given the lavish public aid they’ve received? Without a doubt.
But they should do it on behalf of the non-fans among their benefactors — for the community as a whole — not for the fortunate faithful at the 50-yard line.
Reach D.J. Tice at firstname.lastname@example.org