Vikings stadium: Naming-rights dispute

May, 19, 2011
5/19/11
10:45
AM ET
Thanks to Tom of Minneapolis for noting an underreported obstacle the Minnesota Vikings must hurdle on the way to securing stadium legislation. Two entities have laid claim to revenue from naming rights for the proposed facility in Arden Hills, Minn., a gulf that might be negotiable but still must be addressed before a legislative vote can be taken.

In a financing bill submitted to the state legislature last month, state Sen. Julie Rosen and Rep. Morrie Lanning wrote that naming-rights revenue would go to the state. Specifically, it would be used for stadium debt service and maintenance. According to the Star Tribune, the bill counts that revenue as part of the state's $300 million contribution to the project. I've independently confirmed that important fact as well.

However, in a 12-page memorandum of understanding (MOU) detailing its deal with Ramsey County, the Vikings wrote: "All revenues (net of generally applicable taxes, fees, etc.) derived from the operations of the Stadium and parking facilities including signage, naming rights, etc. shall belong to the Team."

The economic downturn has slowed stadium naming-rights deals around the country, so it's difficult to pinpoint how much money we're talking about here. Over the past decade or so, deals for naming rights on new NFL stadiums have fallen in the range of $5 million to $10 million annually.

The proposed downtown Los Angeles stadium has received a record $20 million annual commitment from Farmers Insurance. But a closer gauge from the perspective of market size is Indianapolis, where three years ago, the Colts signed a 20-year, $122 million deal with Lucas Oil. That averages out to a bit more than $6 million per year.

Two recently-opened stadiums in big markets, the New Meadowlands Stadium and Cowboys Stadium, have yet to finalize deals.

NFL teams have traditionally received naming-rights revenue in public-private partnerships, but every market is different. I have to assume this issue, like many others, is negotiable. The question is whether the sides can find common ground quickly enough to keep the deal moving forward.

Earlier: The Vikings and the state are $131 million apart on road upgrades.

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