Note: this story first appeared in the November 13, 2009 edition of the Weekly Report.
When Save the Vikes first surfaced online, we assumed — along with everyone else in public affairs who was paying attention — that the site was manufactured grassroots being orchestrated by the Vikings, its PR firm, Himle Horner, or by Tunheim Partners, the PR firm recently hired by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.
The site has a professional look and feel to it, and it includes somewhat detailed information on how to lobby the governor and legislators. Plus, Save the Vikings is a much better looking site than the astroturf site registered by the Vikings, Minnesota Momentum— “Citizens for Minnesota Vikings Stadium Development.” All of which furthered our assumption that professional help was involved.
That’s not the case. Save the Vikings was organized by Cory Merrifield, a private sector IT pro. Merrifield, who signs his Save the Vikings-related emails, “Founder/Advocate,” told PIM the site was created and is maintained on his own dime and on his personal time.
In our conversation, Merrifield was smart, passionate and articulate in arguing for a new stadium, particularly on the concept that a new Vikings stadium has a “real return on investment… When was the last time you saw a library turning a profit?” he queried.
Merrifield’s also great at turning that “real investment” into concrete details, like the conversation he recently had with a pizza parlor owner located several hours outside the Twin Cities who says the only reason he sells pizzas on Sundays is the Vikings. With 70 percent of all Minnesota televisions turned to the Vikings during game time, Merrifield likes to repeat the memorable words of long-time and well-respected stadium analyzer and writer Jay Weiner, who wrote that “the Vikings are as close to a statewide campfire as we get.”
From comments on the web site, commentary in the sports blogosphere, the group’s Facebook page and Twitter, it looks like Merrifield may be building real fan momentum. As for the smart and succinct material on the web site relating to how to lobby, Merrifield says he’s just taking pages from the effort to get fans involved to lobby for a new Twins stadium. “I saved all those emails from [Minnesota Twins president] Dave St. Peter,” he said.
Save the Vikings held one small rally at the Capitol last month and the next one is planned for December 3. The turnout for that get-together should be telling.
By the way, Save the Vikes’ Merrifield says he has “a bounty out on Norm Coleman‘s head,” meaning he’s desperately trying to track down the former senator.
He wants to talk Coleman into being a leader of the Save the Vikes fan group. Merrifield points to Coleman’s success in bringing hockey back after the North Stars left, and in creating the political mo to build the Xcel Center. “He galvanized the hockey fan base then, and galvanized St. Paul.”
Merrifield also thinks that “it would be a great way for Norm to re-enter politics.”
So, if any of our readers see Coleman, pass along Merrifield’s request for contact information. The amount of the bounty remains unspecified.