NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has warned the state of Minnesota that failure to pass a stadium bill that would secure a taxpayer subsidy for a replacement to the Metrodome will result in "serious consequences."
The precursor which led to Goodell's threat was a Minnesota House committee voting down the Vikings stadium bill Monday night. The Vikings have been attempting to secure a taxpayer subsidy for the past decade, according to CBS Minnesota.
This is of course news for St. Louis Rams fans as the team is currently in negotiations with the St. Louis Convention and Visitor's Commission (CVC) over what is hoped to be just upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome, for the time being. Speculation over owner Stan Kroenke moving the Rams back to Los Angeles has kept the team on shaky ground with fans in St. Louis.
To no one's surprise, the Rams rejected the initial proposal submitted by the CVC to upgrade the Dome in March. The proposal outlined $124 million in stadium improvements, with more than 50 percent being funded by the Rams.
The Rams are expected to make a counter offer by May 1.
If the Vikings were to leave Minnesota for Los Angeles, the likelihood of the Rams following suit would diminish.
The Minnesota Government Operations Committee was only able to pick up six votes for the stadium proposal. Nine members voted against it. The state legislative session is expected to wrap up before the end of April.
The Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley told the Pioneer Press that "there is no next year" regarding a stadium deal. Minnesota's Mark Dayton added that if a stadium bill isn't passed in 2013 the Vikings will leave. However, the Vikings have stated that 2013 isn't an option.
It's not an option because the Vikings have to give the NFL notice of intention to relocate for the following season by February 15, 2013. And obviously, if the team intends to move, they need to start planning in the near future.
So the clock is ticking. And lawmakers in Minnesota are aware of it, yet they're still unable to build momentum for the bill.
“Somebody’s going to have to pull a rabbit out of a hat for this thing to be alive at this point,” said Rep. Morrie Lanning, the chief House sponsor of the $975 million stadium plan.
Bagley has said in numerous reports that the Vikings will continue to push for the bill in the remaining weeks of legislation.
The rejected House proposal would have spent $398 million from state taxes on gambling, with the city of Minneapolis paying $150 million from sales taxes and $427 million from the Vikings.
It's not clear whether Goodell's threat will help push the envelope in the Minnesota House. Some lawmakers do not seem thrilled with the commissioner's words, according to the Pioneer Press.
"It's disappointing to think the NFL or the Vikings are driving policy for Minnesota government," said Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes.
Opposition to the stadium bill has come from questions over whether taxpayers are getting a fair shake in the deal.
Minnesota has the eighth-lowest unemployment rate in the country at 5.7 percent (Missouri is right in the middle at 25 with a 7.4 percent unemployment rate).
The Vikings stadium plan can be seen on their website.
What does this possibly mean for the Rams in St. Louis?
For one thing, the situation in Minnesota signals reluctance from lawmakers to publicly fund new stadiums for billionaire owners in the current economic climate. This could be key to the Rams future in St. Louis once we see what the team submits in their proposal come May.
It could also present an issue if the Rams want to shift the 52 percent that the CVC wants them to pay back over to the city's table.
The current Edward Jones Dome was financed primarily with $256 million in revenue bonds, which is still being paid with $24 million annual in tax money. The state of Missouri is responsible for $12 million of that, while St. Louis city and county each pay $6 million.
A positive for those who want to see the Rams stay in St. Louis is the team and CVC have a strong working relationship, and is not nearly as tense as what is being seen in Minnesota.
Also, as St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz pointed out on his radio show recently, a team official in another market said Kroenke still has one of the best lease deals in all of the NFL.
According to the Post-Dispatch, the Rams pay $500,000 each year to lease the Dome ($250,000 in rent and $250,000 in reimbursement for game-day costs). The team profits from advertising revenue, concessions and box office receipts.
So while you, a Rams fan, sit there and anxiously wait to see how negotiations between the team and CVC play out for the next few months—just remember that other cities are going through similar processes.
Processes that seem a lot more dire at the time being than in St. Louis.
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