Lockout'11: Scuttling a Vikings stadium?

March, 3, 2011
3/03/11
10:30
AM ET
Here's an unexpected consequence of a protracted labor battle between the NFL and its players: It could doom the Minnesota Vikings' chances of new stadium approval in 2011.

No one is sure how any of this will play out, and it's quite possible the Vikings would fall short even if the NFL and its players quickly resolve their differences. But here's the bottom line: The Vikings are counting on up to $150 million from the NFL to fund construction, but that money wouldn't be available until a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is reached.

As we discussed last month, a stadium approved this year is likely to cost between $920 million and $1.2 billion. In previous years, the Vikings have pledged a private contribution of about one-third the cost of a roofless stadium. We estimated that total to be around $215 million.

The NFL contribution has been included in that figure in past estimates, the result of its long-standing G-3 loan program that provides upfront cash for construction and is repaid through the visitor's share of club seat revenue in the new stadium. But the G-3 fund is dry and its future is a part of the current labor disagreement.

The Minnesota state legislature typically adjourns during the third week of May. If there is no agreement by then, you would have up to a $150 million gap in financing for a plan that would already require at least $700 million in state funding.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf could temporarily cover the difference, as could the state. But would the gap prove a deal-breaker? I don't know. During a meeting with local reporters last month, Vikings vice president Lester Bagley suggested a stadium deal could be reached and made contingent on a new CBA. That arrangement would allow for the NFL money to be plugged in and construction to begin whenever the owners and players have a new deal.

Otherwise, the funding gap could push the issue into the 2012 session, which will open about a month before the expiration of the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome.

Again, I don't know how this will play out. We're talking about less than 20 percent of the stadium's total cost. But in an already-uphill battle, every penny counts.

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