MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings announced on Thursday evening that they will require personal seat licenses on about 75 percent of the seats in their new stadium, making official a move that had been expected for about as long as Minnesota governor Mark Dayton had been disparaging it.
Dayton had called for the Vikings' new facility to be a "people's stadium," ostensibly meaning that hefty user fees didn't mesh with his populist vision. But on Thursday, even Dayton sounded like he was backed into a corner.
"We had to make a deal," Dayton said in an Associated Press story. "We had to get the owners of the team to agree to a deal."
According to the story, the Vikings pointed to recent stadium agreements in Dallas, New York and San Francisco that netted teams $400 million each. The Vikings' program won't be quite that big, but when history suggests fans will pay a premium for seats in a new stadium, it would have been a shock to see the team not try it. All three of the aforementioned markets might be more affluent than the Twin Cities, but as the Vikings have prepared for their new home, how many times have we heard them talk about creating a year-round entertainment destination, along the lines of what the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots did? Those plans are made with profit in mind, and it takes capital to make them happen.
The Vikings can use $125 million of PSL money toward their $477 million share of the new stadium, with another $200 million coming from the NFL. That would leave the team on the hook for $152 million, which it will likely borrow. It's all about what the market will bear, and an informal poll of fans on Twitter on Thursday night suggested many of you are either willing to pay the average price of $2,500 or at least consider your options. Most of you aren't dismissing the idea of getting seats in the new stadium outright, and as the AP story notes, licenses can be lucrative for fans if tickets are hard to come by in a new stadium; PSLs at the Pittsburgh Steelers' Heinz Field are going for nine times their original value.
According to a chart the Vikings released, their license program will be about the same size, when adjusted for inflation, as the one the Green Bay Packers used to finance the renovation of Lambeau Field in 2003. The chart also mentions that 17 of NFL's 32 teams used some form of licensing in their current stadiums. It's obvious the team is wary of some backlash with the announcement, and the Vikings are the first Minnesota franchise to try PSLs on a large scale (though the Minnesota Twins used them for club seats at Target Field). But whatever resentment the team will have to take probably won't outweigh the financial benefit of sticking fans with a one-time cost. That should have been clear long before Thursday, based on history, and in the end, even Dayton couldn't deny it.