One of the biggest stories around the Legislature is that revenue from electronic pulltabs, which were instituted to help pay for the public funding of U.S. Bank Stadium, is growing so quickly and making so much money that several groups, including the Vikings, are making a case for how the excess money should be spent.
A story in the Star Tribune noted that the revenue could be upward of $250 million by 2023, and the Vikings believe that the surplus should be used to pay down the $498 million in bonds that were taken out by the state to pay for the stadium.
If the surplus was used that way, U.S. Bank Stadium could potentially be paid off 10 years earlier than planned, much like the current situation at Target Field with the Twins.
There’s no doubt that pulltabs have done better than anyone expected, and the legislation has been a huge win for the state, the Vikings and everyone who believed that there was a smart way to pay for publicly funded stadiums.
Vikings Executive Vice President Lester Bagley told me that the Wilf family, which owns the team, continues to believe it is doing the right thing by putting its own money into the community, both at U.S. Bank Stadium and in Eagan at the TCO Performance Center.
“I think the Wilf family has taken an investment approach to our state, our community and certainly to the Vikings,” Bagley said of a family headed by Vikings Chairman Zygi Wilf, President Mark Wilf and Vice Chairman Leonard Wilf. “The significant investment of over $600 million to U.S. Bank Stadium from the team and private side, we’re upward of $400 to $500 million out here [in Eagan] for this [practice] facility and the hotel and the medical office building and we have some residential coming.
“I mean the Wilfs have invested in facilities, and you know in excess of $1 billion in Minnesota. That is not counting in what they’re investing in the football team.”
More than just football
U.S. Bank Stadium continues to bring more to the state than just 10 Vikings home games a year.
Bagley said several groups around the state are using venues such as the stadium to try and increase tourism and bring major events to Minnesota.
“There is a group in Minneapolis that the Vikings are very active with called Sports Minneapolis, and they’re working on bringing the College Football Playoff national championship game to U.S. Bank Stadium. They’re working on bringing USA Swimming Olympic trials to U.S. Bank Stadium,” Bagley said.
“We have expressed our interest and formally submitted our expression of interest to the NFL for the NFL draft, which is a three-day event in April. It’s down the road four or five years that we’ve thrown our hat in the ring.
“But there’s a host of events, some of them in Eagan, some in Minneapolis, some in St. Paul, some in Bloomington, but a regional approach to bringing major sporting events to our market. The Vikings are part of it, just as the Twins and the Wild, Wolves and United are all part of a sports team-driven effort to bring these major events to our market.”
Over the next few months, U.S. Bank Stadium will hold the NCAA wrestling championships March 19-21; a Kenny Chesney concert May 2; and maybe the venue’s biggest concert yet when the Rolling Stones play May 16.
“The NCAA had a great experience at the Final Four [in 2019] and we have shown what we can do with the Super Bowl and our hospitality and our great community and facilities. So we have NCAA wrestling, we have a Kenny Chesney concert, a couple other things coming at U.S. Bank Stadium,” Bagley said.
“That continues to be the best stadium in the NFL and in the country, a great fan experience that they continue to work for other events outside Vikings football.”
A community space in Eagan
When it comes to the TCO Performance Center, Bagley noted that the Vikings are continuing to try and use that space to promote local high school sporting events and to have the Eagan facility be community-focused.
“We have worked hard to bring events and particularly high school football, but events to this region in Eagan,” he said. “Training camp we had 60,000 people here, we had three high school football games this year that were well attended.
“We want to continue to support high school football, build on our success and you know showcase some great rivalry games in these facilities. We have priced all of the concessions, family-friendly pricing and it’s the same cost to go to a high school football game no matter if it’s at the high school or at TCO Stadium. But it has been very successful and looking forward to building on the future.”
The Wilfs continue to be model owners in this state, and there’s no question that the smart move would be to use that excess revenue to help pay off U.S. Bank Stadium early so the state can pay off the debt sooner than expected.
• This weekend marked the 40th anniversary of the United States men’s hockey team defeating the Soviet Union in the “Miracle on Ice” at the Olympics. After the Americans beat Finland for the gold medal on Feb. 24, 1980, Lou Nanne told me, “The victory of the United States was a great tribute to Herbie [then-Gophers coach and Team USA coach Herb Brooks]. He did a fantastic job preparing these guys from the day they started practice last fall until the big victory over Finland.”
• Eden Prairie has been a football power for decades, but is this new: The Eagles’ 78-64 victory over Minnehaha Academy on Tuesday makes them the best boys’ basketball teams in Minnesota, too. Eden Prairie’s top player is point guard Drake Dobbs, who is headed to Liberty, passing up offers from North Dakota State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
• DeLaSalle’s Jalen Travis is going to Princeton to play basketball. His brother Reid started at Stanford before transferring to Kentucky and brother Jonah played at Harvard.
• ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper had Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. being selected No. 25 overall by the Vikings in his latest mock draft. “Safety might not appear to be a priority position for the Vikings, but they have salary-cap issues and could lose Anthony Harris to a big offer in free agency,” he wrote.
• The Wolves were 25-29 through 54 games last season. This season they are 16-38.
• Two of the best surprises for the Wolves have been point guard Jordan McLaughlin and center Naz Reid, who both spent a lot of time with the Iowa Wolves. “[Player development coach] John Lucas [III] and [Iowa coach] Sam [Newman-Beck] deserve a ton of credit because they’re running a great program there, and they’re making our players better,” Wolves President Gersson Rosas said.