[Note: This story first appeared in the March 28, 2008, edition of The Weekly Report.]
[Update: The Senate — wisely — pulled the Vikings study from the tax bill when it was debated on the floor April 3, 2008.]
Vikings’ lobbyists. They got their first down in reviving the dead
horse that is building a new Vikings stadium with a surprise $2 million
study amendment to the Senate tax bill. The Vikings Capitol lobbying team
includes the Vikings’ Lester Bagley, and contract lobbyists Ted Grindal and Rebecca Klett of Lockridge Grindal Nauen, along with contract lobbyists Brian Halloran and Larry Redmond of Redmond Associates.
MinnPost’s Gerry Anderson has the details here. The Star Tribune‘s Mike Kaszuba captures the essence of the study amendment, "opponents
immediately cast the move as a not-so-subtle step toward building a
nearly $1 billion stadium for the Vikings that would need large doses
of public money."
The opponents are right about that. The oldest trick in the lobbying
book is to commit state funds to study a project as a means to making
the state commit to the entire project. That usually works, if the
been introduced as a separate bill and if it is heard in the usual
process. Not here. The Vikings overreached. The $2 million for the
study is dead-on-arrival when the tax bills hit a
conference committee. Or, it should be. Whether to study — yet,
again — building a Vikings stadium should have been discussed in a
policy committee, first. But that deadline passed weeks ago. Throwing
new policy into the tax bill as an amendment is old school. Not the
kind of "due process notice" politics the public has come to expect.
Moreover, $2 million is on the high-end of the study scale, and
what’s in the study is hilarious: It’s a Vikings dream list. The study provision is in section 24 of SF 2869, an amendment offered by Sen. Dan Larson
(DFL-Bloomington). It includes all the bells and whistles on the Vikings
wish list including studying a retractable roof, accommodating NCAA men’s
and women’s basketball, amateur and professional soccer, "amateur
baseball," (we’ve already accommodated professional baseball), and my personal favorite, "community and cultural events."
That retractable roof will come in handy for winter solstice revelers
enjoying a community and cultural event under the winter stars. Or
perhaps a cultural square-dancing event to celebrate the harvest in
On a less sarcastic note, I checked with highly respected sports freelance writer Jay Weiner, who wrote the book on local stadiums,
"Stadium Games," about what he thought about the surprise $2 million
study. Weiner reminded me that he’s long noted that the Metropolitan
Sports Facilities Commission should be doing more studies, but that the
Commission has gotten too close to the Vikings; and, he agrees with GOP
Gov. Tim Pawlenty. A Vikings stadium has been studied to death.
But the most important point Weiner continues to make — which seems to
fall on deaf ears — is why we need two football stadiums. We’ve seen
several of Jay’s presentations on the subject, and he’s right. The Twin
Cities and Minnesota are too small to support two football stadiums.