On Monday, I suggested that anyone who thought the Minnesota Vikings wouldn't pursue some form of personal seat licenses (PSLs) for their new stadium was at least naïve and, worst, delusional. Apparently that group includes the governor of Minnesota.
Gov. Mark Dayton fired off an angry letter to team owners Tuesday that, among other things, threatened to scuttle the team's $975 million stadium deal if the team institutes PSLs -- a plan that is under consideration but has not been finalized. PSL revenue would go to the Vikings, and therefore help offset their $477 million share of the deal, and Dayton wrote: "I strongly oppose shifting any part of the team's responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans. This Private Contribution is your responsibility, not theirs."
That makes sense in the real world. The Vikings' owners are rich men, and the NFL is a $9 billion industry. No one will go bankrupt if they don't claim a few thousand extra dollars from key season-ticket holders.
But there are some major holes in what is really just a sloppy political maneuver. The first: The stadium legislation Dayton signed last spring explicitly gave the Vikings clearance to sell PSLs through the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. Further, it allows them to count the revenues toward its share of construction costs.
Don't believe me? I dug up the legislation itself online and found the relevant passages. Here you go:
On the topic of what the bill refers to as "stadium builder's licenses," the legislation says: "The authority shall own and retain the exclusive right to sell stadium builder's licenses in the stadium. The authority will retain the NFL team to act as the authority's agent in marketing and selling such licenses."
In a subsection on the Vikings' contribution, the bill reads: "The NFL team/private contribution, including stadium builder's license proceeds, for stadium costs must be made in cash in the amount of $477,000,000."
Look, no one other than the Vikings and the NFL wants PSLs. I don't like them any more than you do. And I realize Dayton is doing what politicians do, which is to at least appear to defend us commoners. But his threat is silly and hollow when you realize he already agreed to what he is now protesting. If he felt so strongly about PSLs, he should have taken a stand during final negotiations.
In the big picture, this episode falls into the category of Minnesota politicians and businessmen not accepting the cost of doing business with the NFL. State leaders spent more than a decade fighting against the idea of public subsidies for a new stadium. But when faced with the consequences of that position, namely the likely departure of the franchise, they struck a deal that will cost taxpayers more than three times what it would have if they had agreed to build at the start of that fight.
PSLs are the same way. They've been used in more than half of the NFL's stadiums and, as distasteful as they seem, have proven reliable revenue producers. They're fair game based on the legislation. What made Dayton or anyone else think the Vikings wouldn't use them? A for-profit business should turn down the opportunity to generate revenue? Come on. Protests against inevitability are a waste of time.