Stadium games: What's at stake in MN

May, 3, 2010
5/03/10
11:50
AM ET
As previously noted, Minnesota state legislators announced formal legislation Monday for a new Vikings stadium, one they hope will be approved during the final two weeks of this year's session. According to a news release, it proposes a $791 million project -- paid for by a combination of sports-themed lottery tickets; taxes on hotels, rental cars, jerseys; and a $264 million contribution from the Vikings/NFL.

[+] EnlargeZygi Wilf
John David Mercer/US PresswireIf the Minnesota legislature doesn't approve funding for a new stadium, owner Zygi Wilf may consider selling the team.
The Vikings would also be responsible for any cost overruns, which seem likely considering the project was originally priced at anywhere between $870 million and $980 million.

Now starts the grimy political process of determining if enough state leaders will support the project. Already, a team spokesman has balked at the $264 million contribution; owner Zygi Wilf has previously capped his commitment to $215 million, including a loan from the NFL. But the bottom line is that the Vikings have two more years on their lease at the Metrodome, after which they will become franchise "free agents."

Over on our Facebook page, Israel asks the most pertinent long-term question:
If the new Vikings stadium bill does not pass, what are the chances Mr. Wilf tries to sell the team? How would this affect any upcoming free agents such as Sidney Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Chad Greenway?

There are many people closely tracking the use of their tax money here, but Israel's question cuts to what I think is the biggest issue.

I don't think anything significant will happen immediately if the bill is rejected this year, other than the possibility of higher costs if the issue is re-considered next winter. But if it ultimately becomes clear that funding won't be approved, I believe Wilf will give strong consideration to selling the team.

I don't believe Wilf will move the team himself. My educated guess is that he isn't interested in having his family name associated with the departure of a franchise the way "Irsay" is known in Baltimore and "Modell" in Cleveland. But selling to a new owner who wants to relocate would allow Wilf to escape that legacy.

If Wilf puts the team up for sale, I can tell you it's generally not a good short-term sign for the franchise. Every situation is different, but in most sale situations, it doesn't make sense to invest more than what is absolutely necessary to maintain the franchise value. Sure, the Vikings would be better off signing their star players to long-term contracts. But would it change the franchise value if they depart via free agency? In most cases, probably not.

Vikings fans witnessed that approach for three years under former owner Red McCombs. More recently, St. Louis hasn't exactly broken the bank this winter while awaiting the conclusion of its sale process. The Rams will have to pay quarterback Sam Bradford what could be a record NFL contract, but the lack of negotiations thus far causes a cynic to wonder if current ownership is hoping to leave future ownership with the bill.

The Vikings are nowhere close to that point right now. But I think people in Minnesota are fooling themselves if they believe nothing will change if a stadium is indefinitely delayed.

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