Los Angeles posing little immediate threat to Vikings fans

Last night, you may have heard, a committee at the Minnesota Legislature turned down the Vikings stadium bill. Today, from what I can tell from the Twitter feed, sports talk stations are urging people to get the pitchforks out, and Gov. Mark Dayton has taken on the role the Vikings steadfastly refuse to take on: The guy who verbalizes the threat that the team would leave for Los Angeles.

“It’s a mistake to think the Vikings and the (National Football) League will continue with the status quo,” Vikings stadium pit boss Lester Bagley said last night.

Bagley didn’t make the explicit threat because he can’t. There’s no place for them to go, and you don’t bluff until that fact isn’t so clear.

“Dayton said that he planned to ask the Vikings for patience,” MPR News reports today.

There’s no need to. They don’t have a choice.

This is a story that should be being told from Los Angeles as much as Saint Paul and yet public policy is being formulated by a threat that (a) hasn’t been made and (b) isn’t realistic — yet — even if it is made.

A week ago, for example, I pointed out that the “new stadium” situation in Los Angeles is, itself, a mess, with three separate possibilities and all of them years away from being settled. In the last week, it’s got even more uncertain.

Today, for example, comes word that the Los Angeles Dodgers, who’ve recently been sold to new owners, might develop Chavez Ravine.

Nobody is saying how that might happen, but it might mean relocating the Dodgers to downtown Los Angeles, on land where one developer wants to build the football stadium Minnesota politicians seem to fear.

The Los Angeles Times says:

There would be even more potential if the baseball stadium were to be relocated downtown, as many have suggested. AEG Entertainment President Tim Leiweke, who is leading plans to build an NFL football stadium downtown, said a downtown baseball stadium would be among other possible options if the football stadium were derailed.

Beverly Hills apartment developer Alan Casden, another unsuccessful bidder for the Dodgers, had made relocating the stadium a cornerstone of an earlier proposal to buy the team in 2003.

At that time, Casden criticized Dodger Stadium for convoluted parking lots, a poor seating plan and a location inconvenient for both fans and nearby residents who bear the brunt of traffic, noise and litter in their neighborhood.

One analyst says it would take years to sort out the Dodgers’ owner’s plan, and further exacerbate the “you go first” situation with competing developments that has stalled any progress on a new football stadium in Los Angeles.

True, Vikings majority owner Zygi Wilf could sell the team and, theoretically, that could increase the chance the team would relocate. But Forbes values the team at $796 million, a lot more than the $600 million he paid for the team, but fairly low on the return-on-investment of a typical sports franchise, and it ranks 28th in the NFL.

How could Wilf get the value of his team to increase? A stadium deal.

There might be many good reasons for the state and Minneapolis to pony up whatever public money may be required to build a new stadium — jobs, coolness, pride. But quick passage of a bill with questionable financing in the waning days of a legislative session to preclude a threat that isn’t real isn’t one of them.

“We have to get a stadium next year or the Vikings will leave,” the governor said. “It’s just as clear as that. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t not do a new stadium and have the Vikings remain here very long.”

Over time, he may be right. Nobody thinks the Metrodome is a long-term solution to anything.

But the urgency of a stadium in Minnesota primarily depends on what happens in Los Angeles. By next year, Los Angeles authorities and developers could get everything squared away and agree on a master plan for a football stadium and the Dodgers’ future home.

But if reports from Los Angeles are correct, even getting to that point will take years.

  • If California could afford a stadium to attract a football team to come back to L.A., they’d already have a team. It’s a hollow “threat.”

    I think Zygi should meet with Robert Kraft and build his own danged stadium.

  • Ross Williams

    I like the idea of the “Los Angeles Vikings”. It fits a city with the Los Angeles Lakers. You can still watch the games on TV, which is the only place most people can afford to watch them anyway.

    Its outrageous that we are charging kids to play sports in high school, while providing a super-sized TV studio so that on 8 weekends each year couch potatoes can feel close to the team they are watching.

    Oh, but lets not forget the 45,000 well-healed ticket owners who can afford to pop a few hundred dollars to take the family to the studio to watch the game. It might be cheaper to give them all plane tickets to watch a game in Chicago.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Ross – “I like the idea of the “Los Angeles Vikings”. It fits a city with the Los Angeles Lakers.”

    Or LA could just drop the first part of the name, as Dallas did when they got the North Stars. And then they could affiliate their new nfl with their nhl team.

    OR they could drop the SECOND part of the name, pick up a certain dog-torturing quarterback of the SAME name, and that would work pretty well too.

  • Brian

    So, if the Vikings leave MN, will my Twitter feed stop being full of Vikings-related tweets? #AllICareAbout

  • Dave Eldred

    From the little I heard on KFAN today — and it was admittedly a little; I couldn’t take much more than that — the conversation was veering wildly between total ignorance and intellectual dishonesty.

  • David

    California doesn’t need to afford a football stadium . They have a ton of billionaire private investors that will gladly pay for it as long as they get property tax breaks.

    There are 2 possibilities in LA if the Anchutz plan fails to agree with the NFL. That doesn’t mean that they’re indecisive. Just the opposite. It means more and more investors are seeing the stadium as a cash cow.

    Also, Anschutz practically built LA Live and Staples Center overnight. He’s got that much money available. This isn’t like a public works project. Once they get approval, they have the power to magically make the stadium come out of thin air. Minnesota should worry.

  • jon

    If we can’t have it both ways (i.e. the vikings need a new stadium or they are leaving) then they shouldn’t be able to have it both ways either (i.e. We are in a wildly successful market, making money hand over fist, but it’s not enough to satisfy us.)

    One of my favorite moments in the committee hearing was when US bank was asked if feel that a new stadium is such a great investment then they shouldn’t have any problem paying for it. They said they certainly would support a new stadium by getting a box in it, so it could be tax deductible, because that is the economic model that “works” (for them.)

    The vikings won’t leave.

    They’ve no where to go that’s any better then here.

    They will be hard pressed to get a better deal on any stadium then what they have now (not that they aren’t trying) where they play at the dome, and end up not paying a cent for it.

    The “demands” they are placing on MN are unreasonable… and the people of Minnesota shouldn’t have to front the bill.

    If you’d like to see a new stadium, I believe there is a trust out there for contributions to help bail out a team worth $796 Million dollars that clearly doesn’t need the bailout money.

  • kennedy

    Staples Center cost $375 million to build. The majority of funding ($315 million) came from selling securities (shares) that paid investors over 7.5% interest.

    If the owner of the Vikings were willing to share revenue (including increased value of the team) with investors, he could get plenty of money from private sources. Of course, public money would be a better deal for the team owner because he keeps more profit and the public assumes the risk.

    Why is the government looking to spend more money when we already have a budget deficit?

  • Bob Collins

    // The vikings won’t leave. They’ve no where to go that’s any better then here.

    I think it’s a bad strategy to adopt a “Vikings won’t leave” position. They probably would once there’s a plan in place that works for them and the scenario in which that could be accomplished is multi-fold.

    What I’m saying is the “there’s no next year” position of the Vikings and stadium supporters is nonsense.

    They have the time to put together a financing plan that is a little smarter and makes a little more sense if that’s what they want to do.

    But the current scheme is based mostly on politics, not on any sort of economic reality or theory. The lawmakers are afraid of their shadows so they’re, naturally, trying to get a scheme through that everyone knows is a terrible financing mechanism because the priority isn’t anything but political cover.

    If the possibility of the Vikings leaving is a crisis, the legislation will begin to reflect the seriousness which the pols presently insist we bring to the issue.

    That’s the Minnesota end of the “you go first” conundrum.

  • Ross Williams

    I made this suggestion elsewhere, but how about a Minnesota Vikings candy bar that can be sold door-to-door by fans. That seems to be the model for high school sports.

  • Gabe Ramirez

    I really want to see an NFL team back in my hometown. Los Angeles is a great sports market and the first team to move here will reap a massive upward valuation. This article is a little misleading -with a touch of wishful hoping me thinks- as to the state of an LA stadium. AEG, the city and state are more united than I have ever seen when it comes to this subject. The competing proposal in Industry is shovel ready having completed an environmental revue. The complications as they are, mostly come from the NFL, not the local players.

    That said I don’t want to see a team with deep community roots like the Vikings leave Minnesota. Ironically, we lost the NFL because residents of LA and Orange County refused to pay for new stadiums for Al Davis and Georgia Frontiere. The Raiders drew attendance but where never -too my mind- really rooted in LA. But the Rams where beloved and moved only because St. Louis made the despicable Frontiere a very rich woman. I would love the Rams to come home.