I wrote this for today’s issue of the Politics In Minnesota Email newsletter:
A letter writer to the Star Tribune today proposed calling any new Twins stadium Kirby Puckett Park. It’s not a bad idea.
An even better idea would be to finally, and at long last, solve our stadium problems. This session.
I know it’s an election year but I swear, every time I read another stadium story, lines from Devo‘s "Working In The Coal Mine" play in my head:
Lord, I am sooooo tired
How long can this go on?
We’ve been debating this issue for what, nearly a decade now? It’s long past time to deal with it and, in fact, time is quickly running out.
If the sad and tragically untimely death of Kirby Puckett and the subsequent outpouring of love for the man from Minnesotans far and wide demonstrate anything, it highlights the immense amount of joy that professional sports can provide a community. And for my money that, in itself, is a damn good investment.
Let’s face it, the Metrodome, in trying to be all things to all people, fails in all respects. It’s a horrible place to watch sports–the sightlines are equally bad for baseball and football. Even in the 14th row on the 50 yard line, the fans are too far removed from the action. Plus, the suites are truly horrible.
As a revenue-generating stadium–well, it’s not. That’s the reason we’re having this discussion. While most professional teams have modern, revenue-generating stadiums, the Vikings and the Twins struggle to compete as small-market teams.
The Twins and Hennepin County have an eminently reasonable plan on the table and the Twins are on a year-to-year lease with the Metrodome. Not getting a deal done now is practically begging Major League Baseball to revisit contraction.
The Vikings and Anoka County have an equally reasonable plan on the table as well. This is no Texas snake-oil. It’s a vast, jobs-creating sports/entertainment/retail real estate development project proposed by a man who has made a mint in real estate development. The economic benefits to the northern suburbs could be enormous, turning Blaine into a suburban entertainment/retail anchor similar to the Mall of America.
The primary issue holding up the talks between the NFL owners and the players is that the large-market and small-market owners cannot agree on revenue-sharing. Revenue-sharing is the brilliant vehicle by which every NFL team has a reasonable chance for on-field success every year. The NFL has avoided Major League Baseball‘s problem where large-market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox can essentially buy themselves championships.
If the owners can’t agree on revenue sharing and the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association isn’t extended, the Vikings could win big in free agency. They could field a Super Bowl caliber team but you’d better hope they win the big one because in 2007, without the benefit of a modern, revenue-generating stadium, they will not be able to afford the exorbitant salaries that a salary cap-less environment promises.
The Vikings need a new stadium.
But while we’re dealing with stadiums, let’s deal with all the stadiums, so let’s get the Gophers‘ problems solved as well. I really don’t understand why they can’t use the Metrodome, why they must have an on-campus stadium. Are students somehow incapable of using shuttles? The Dome is, after all, practically right next door to campus. Regardless, let’s solve their problem, too.
The bottom line is this: The Twins and the Vikings will get their stadiums. The only question is whether or not they get them in Minnesota. And if they leave, we will be a "cold Omaha." We will build new stadiums to attract new teams and it will cost us far more then than if we solve this problem now.
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