Could the Vikings have paid for a new stadium in Minneapolis themselves?

Maybe, according to Forbes.

The magazine is out with their annual ranking of the most valuable teams in sports, and the Vikings slot in at #35 this year, up from #41 the last two years. That might have a little something to do with having the league MVP on the team’s roster.

(Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Adrian Peterson and Daniel Manning of the Houston Texans on Dec. 23, 2012 in Houston.

But the ranking isn’t the most  interesting detail in the Forbes listing:

“The Vikings are getting a new $975 million stadium–set to open in 2016–that will be financed with $477 million from the team and the NFL, $348 million from the state and $150 million from the city of Minneapolis. The team, currently near the bottom of the NFL in stadium revenue, could generate an additional $40 million a year from the new venue. The Vikings won seven more games on the field last year than in 2011.”

Note that line: “could generate an additional $40 million a year from the new venue.”

GOP State Sen. Sean Nienow sure did. That’s a decent markup above and beyond what the state expects to be the debt service on its $348 million share, between $30 and $40 million a year. Nienow has been among the stadium deal’s most outspoken critics:

Sen. Sean Nienow
(R-Cambridge)

“You can argue whether its 40 or 35 or 45 (million) or whatever. The point is, it’s tens of millions of dollars more, and if Forbes is anywhere even close to accurate, the Vikings could have built the stadium, paid for everything and partnered with Minneapolis, without putting one dollar of state money in. And they still could have come out ahead.”

Nienow says the state could have helped out with some bonding, to lower the Vikings borrowing costs.

Vikings vice president Lester Bagley didn’t respond to an inquiry about the Forbes ranking. That said, the Vikings have in the past taken issue with Forbes’ numbers and say they don’t reflect the reality of the franchise’s financial situation. But the team don’t elaborate on what that situation is, either.

And among those unknowns: how much Zygi Wilf and his co-owners are borrowing to pay their $477 million share of the project. We know they’re getting at least a $200 million loan from the NFL, although that’s supposed to be paid back from the visiting team share of certain premium seats — that’s money the Vikings don’t get anyway.

They’re also likely to get upwards of $60 million in present value for naming rights fees, if Forbes and Bloomberg are to be believed, and the Vikings have floated the idea of selling at least $50 million in personal seat licenses. Which leaves maybe $160 million for the team share that isn’t paid by someone else. It could be more, it could be less, depending on what those PSLs cost in total, and what the naming rights bring in.

So, the Vikings may have their OWN debt to service on the new stadium — a mortgage they were already planning to pay with that new revenue that Forbes thinks they’re going to get.