With new stadium, Vikings owners make a fortune

The latest Forbes report on the value of a franchise suggests owners of National Football League teams couldn’t lose money even if they set fire to their cash.

Exhibit A: Zygi Wilf, lead owner of your Minnesota Vikings who has a team that is now worth 38 percent more than it was a year ago, thanks primarily to the new stadium that was built with nearly a half billion dollars of public money.

“If you buy the average NFL team today (assuming that 80% of the purchase price is written off over 15 years) you get a 9% cash yield,” Forbes reported today. “Throw in stadium capex for some teams and you get around a 7% to 8% yield with an asset that has appreciated at a 12.5% annualized rate since 1991 prior to this year’s valuations.”

In 2014, the Vikings were valued at about $1 billion, and $1.15 billion last year based on Forbes calculations in an article on the value of all sports franchises. In calculations with only NFL teams, however, Forbes claimed the Vikings were worth $1.59 billion in 2015. With the new stadium, Forbes calculates the team is worth $2.2 billion. Forbes contends it’s a 38 percent increase in a year, with the team moving up from 18th-most-valuable to 17th.

The increase in value in one year — $600 million — far exceeds the money Minnesota taxpayers put into building the new stadium.

But the Wilf family could’ve made more by carrying out its unstated — but implied — threat to move to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Rams are now worth $2.9 billion, according to Forbes. That’s the sixth-most-valuable franchise. Last year, when the team played in St. Louis, a Forbes ranking pegged them dead last in the league at just under $400 million. The survey a year ago calculated a $1.45 billion value. That’s still a nice 100 percent increase.

The Green Bay Packers are valued at $2.35 billion, good for 13th place in the league.

The Dallas Cowboys are the league’s richest team, valued at more than $4 billion.

  • Gary F

    Remember Mark Dayton telling us this was “The People’s Stadium”.

  • wjc

    How depressing!

  • Fred, Just Fred
      • Fred, Just Fred

        I don’t keep track close enough to know who is who anymore, but I know the GOP’s hands were definitely not clean. But as I recall, those that supported the fleecing didn’t get away completely unscathed.

        Didn’t a few of them lose primary elections?

        • Kriesel basically ran the bill. He opted not to run again. The stadiums, oddly enough, have never been much of an election albatross. Not the way the gas tax and same-sex marriage were, anyway.

        • crystals

          You might also want to look at all of the no’s next to DFL names – the Strib link posted above is quite clear about who is in which party, and how they voted.

          In short: this topic probably isn’t your best bet for partisan bashing that is actually meaningful.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            I don’t keep track close enough to know who is who up there anymore, but as I understand it, all house Democrats voted “yes”, and a just a few Senate Democrats voted “no”.

            In any case, the Governor could have vetoed it, and it would not have had the votes for an over ride. I think it’s a great topic for partisan bashing, but I aver, I think there are only a few that are not.

          • There’s a fair number of GOP votes here. I always joked that TPaw gave up his gubernatorial gig b/c he didn’t want to be the guy who let the Vikings go. I think that was Dayton’s consideration too.

            I don’t know if I’ve seen a survey of the political leanings of Vikings fans. I only know they show up at court hearings for players charged with crimes dressed in Vikings jerseys and that’s always been as close to the knowledge as I’ve ever wanted to get.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            I only know they show up at court hearings for players charged with crimes dressed in Vikings jerseys…

            Man, that is a pathetic commentary on the integrity (and intelligence) of some people.

          • crystals

            That is incorrect. My rep – often cited as the most liberal in the house – voted against it, as did quite a few others.

            Your “in any case” may well be true, but as just about everyone else is trying to point out: your standing in this argument is extremely weak.

    • Rob

      // A couple of Repubican fingerprints. That’s rich. I seem to recall that other government bodies, one of which is controlled by Repubicans, was indispensable in making this taxpayer ripoff fly.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        Zygi would not have gotten a dime if Dayton hadn’t been pulling levers and twisting arms. Although, as I pointed out, some GOP members voted for it, the majority did not.

        • Rob

          I’m totally with you in thinking that the deal stinks. It was hugely disappointing to see Dayton not just in favor of the deal, but leading the jock-sniffing.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            did you vote to re-elect him?

          • Rob

            Did you vote to re-elect any Repubican legislators who said “aye” to it?

          • Fred, Just Fred

            I didn’t live in the state at the time, but I would not have voted for any that did. I explained earlier that I shunned Norm Coleman in 1998 for his support of the Excel center. I also didn’t vote for Bush 41 after he reneged his no new taxes promise. My integrity is intact.

          • Rob

            With ya on the Normie deal. Never voted for him, so you and I have mutual integrity in that regard.

  • Mike

    This is what politics has become: a contest to see who can most efficiently transform taxpayer dollars into corporate profits.

    But people will laugh at you or change the subject when you start talking about how corrupt our political system is.

    To that end, has anyone seen the groundbreaking reporting in The Guardian today about Wisconsin and Scott Walker?


    • Geezer44

      Yes, I read it, but I doubt many Wisconsinites did, and thus will undoubtedly vote all Republican again in November. Ignorance is bliss.

    • Fred, Just Fred

      Walker’s leftist foes gathered and spent as much on their unsuccessful attempts to recall him. Unions or corporations…they all want something for their money.

      Personally, in my opinion, the all time skeeziest fund raiser of all time was Bill Clinton, who used the Lincoln bedroom in the White House as an Air B-N-B to get donations from wealthy leftists and sold Presidential pardons which he signed while GWB was taking the oath of office. Man, that takes some stones.


      • Mike

        Although the scoop is about Walker, I don’t ultimately see this as a partisan issue. Both parties are deeply corrupt and to a point take money from the same people.

        • Fred, Just Fred

          You’re right. The only proven way to combat corruption is to limit the autonomous power and authority of politicians. You can’t sell what you don’t have.

      • Rob

        I love Dubya’ s greeting to the crowd at one of his fundraisers: “This is an impressive crowd – the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have mores.’ I call you my base.” Man, that takes some stones.

        • Fred, Just Fred

          I’d rather be with the “Have mores” than the “Have yours” community any day.

  • MarkUp

    After the Wells Fargo sign lawsuit, it was clear to me that Wilf owns this town.

    • DavidG

      GIven the contract they signed, that was a pretty foregone conclusion. But I still don’t understand why Wells Fargo signed away the signage rights for their own building.

  • Mike Worcester

    So this does not get lost in a response thread, here is the roll call vote on the Vikings stadium.


  • Jeff

    I guess we’re going to belly-ache about the stadium deal until the end of time. When is it time to move on? I sort of wished they moved to LA.

    • You sound like you think the era of public spending for new sports facilities in the Twin Cities is over. :*)

      • Jeff

        The MLS rich guys didn’t get a whole lot of public money for theirs. Otherwise, I think the only stadium left to replace is Williams Arena.

        I have stadium deal bashing fatigue, but maybe we still don’t have enough things to complain about or it has a permanent place on the list.

        • It’s a matter of public policy and clearly, as every other city has also proven, it doesn’t stop. Granted, public policy bores people, which, by the way, is exactly why you can’t kill any attempt at public funding of sports facilities. It requires people to lose interest in the subject.

          • Rob

            I think it would be nice if it was a matter of of public policy. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a tough time seeing how taxpayer subsidies of billionaire team owners operating under an opaque monopoly exempt from anti-trust regs can be considered public policy.

          • Anything involving public expenditure involves public policy. I didn’t say it was good or bad. I’m saying the public shouldn’t be made to feel it should apologize for weighing in on it.

      • Jack Straw

        I’m curious for your thoughts on when the next round of stadium demands will hit the Twin Cities? 10 years? 20? Only 5? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Timberwolves start lobbying for a brand new stadium within the next handful of years…

        • Alex

          I would. They’re just about to sink a ton of money into renovating Target Center. The only scenario where I see them lobbying for a new stadium in “the next handful of years” is if the team starts doing really well and can consistently fill the building they have. Otherwise, given how long it took them to get these renovations actually going, I’d have to imagine that Target Center has at least another 10 years before anything serious starts happening.

          • The interesting thing to track is how many “temporary taxes” end up blinking off? The convention center’s was supposed to. It didn’t. Instead, it was used for the Target renovations . The bonds on Target Field are being paid off sooner than expected. Think that sales tax will drop when they are?

            Cleveland is a good example. Temporary “sin taxes” built Jacob’s Field (now Progressive field) and the Browns stadium. When they expired, suddenly these places needed “upgrades.” Bang…taxes extended.

            That’s how it will play out in Minnesota too. You don’t just build stadium. You have to upgrade it after a few years.

            I imagine the X will need to be updated at some point, particularly if Target Center becomes more competition again.

            It’s an arms race.


  • Goooogle

    It sucks to contribute money to billionaire owners but if you want a NFL football team, that’s probably what is necessary. From their prospective they could have moved and made much more money. There are more important things than money (or should be), but a billion dollars is a lot of money for anyone. So if we wanted to have a football team here we needed to kick in some money. Also the stadium is owned by the state, and attracts other ventures (Super Bowl, soccer, concerts, etc) and the aging Metrodome was a disgrace and needed to be replaced anyway. Personally I love NFL football and 500 million (roughly $100/person in MN spread out over time) plus a stadium that can attract world class events is worth it to me. That’s me talking. I realize many people aren’t going to agree with that, which is a dilemma when you’re dealing with public money. I do think it adds to the attractiveness of the state however as a destination and a place to live.

    • Fred, Just Fred

      Have you seen the concessions that the NFL demanded, and received, to bestow the Super Duped Bowl on you?

      You couldn’t have, or you wouldn’t have posted that comment.

      Zygi’s Big Gift isn’t going to get any soccer, because you’re building a new stadium for that.

      You will get some concerts but Zygi will pocket the concessions…you get the empty boxes.

      As to the disgrace the metrodome presented, well I saw a bumper sticker once, on a 10 year old car zipping along quite nicely, that said “Don’t laugh, it’s paid for” that seems pretty appropriate.

      • Goooogle

        I agree with you that many claims of economic benefit are over inflated. I don’t think it generates hundreds of millions of dollars of benefits. And the NFL are stingy bastards no doubt, however their list of demands was a starting point. Not all those demands were met. Unfortunately we don’t know because they haven’t released the final agreement.

        Even conservative estimates from people who think claims of benefit to cities are overrated give the benefit averaging around 90 million. Not shabby. http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2016/02/02/what-super-bowl-50-means-for-host-citys-bottom-line.html

    • Rob

      It does indeed suck. Where is it written that billionaire owners, mega-millionaire players, and the fans that want to see them play, shouldn’t be required to pay all of the freight for their team’s stadium?

    • Postal Customer

      I heard on MPR the other day that Super Bowl should bring in around $400m. $100m less than we spent on the stadium. Concerts, soccer, none of the rest of that bring in s**t.

      Meanwhile, we have a deplorable transportation infrastructure here. They keep telling us there’s no money. There’s just no money. That freeway you use that was designed for 1960s traffic volumes? Sorry, no money.

      “aging Metrodome was a disgrace”

      To whom?

      “needed to be replaced anyway”

      No it didn’t. It just got a new roof and the building itself was in fine shape. The problem was that the Wilfs couldn’t make enough profit out of it.

      • wjc

        The $400 million number for the Super Bowl is bandied about, but has anyone ever seen a breakdown of that number that you could actually analyze? No, because it is a fiction.

        If every person attending the Super Bowl came from out of town and you divided the $400 mill by 60,000 attendees, you’d get that spending for each person would have to be $6666. Does that make any sense at all? You can’t count ticket prices, because that money doesn’t come to the community. There is some money spent by the media, but a lot of the infrastructure is already here, or is spent for elsewhere and trucked in here..

        I don’t buy that $400 million number for a second.

    • Grey Ghost

      Either watch it on TV or pony up the money yourself if you like it so much. Or have Zygi fork it over – it’s his business, not some kind of public service. Just keep your nasty hands off my wallet, and don’t try to rationalize your acquiescence to the theft by some kind of “it’s good for the state” nonsense. Study after study after study shows it isn’t, and still we get it stuffed down our throats. What you “think” is of a lot less interest to me than actual facts.

  • tboom

    “…owners of National Football League teams couldn’t lose money even if they set fire to their cash.”

    I believe I’d like to see that.

  • Grey Ghost

    One of my useless shills, an alleged Republican, voted “yes.” He’s also a main supporter of the light-rail boondoggle. The other transcended her usual levels and voted “no.”

  • Barton

    Just wanted to add that I greatly enjoyed reading the whole thread of comments.

    (& say this life-long Vikings fan would have cheerfully become a KC Chiefs fan if the team HAD moved. I am glad they stayed but I can’t stand how that stadium changed the skyline of Mpls – especially from my side of town as it’s all I see coming up 55 once past 38th Street).

    • Rob

      Indeed; it’s beyond ugly. I’ve taken to calling it Huge Friggin’ Eyesore Stadium.

      • Hikertrash

        Heh – we call it “the Mothership.”

        • Rob

          Nice. It also bears an uncanny resemblance to a Sandcrawler, IMHO.

  • Ryan Coleman

    Imagine how much more the Wilf regime would be worth if they paid for the thing on their own…