Does Pawlenty's comment regarding Brett Favre indicate a change in his attitude towards a new stadium? Calls to Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley went unreturned but a quick look at recent press can give us some insight.
In February of this year, the Star Tribune ran an article wherein Bagley blasted Governor Pawlenty's indifference to the stadium issue. A quick look at reader's comments to that article indicate a mixed attitude toward spending public funds on a sports arena during our current economy. The construction of a new stadium will cost upwards of 700 million dollars. If a new stadium is going to be built, public opinion is going to have to be solidly behind such an expenditure. At the moment, Pawlenty has driven the state of MN into a financial abyss. But with the Vikings bringing in 18 million in tax revenue annually, will the people of MN allow Pawlenty and his political expediency to blind-side us to the financial loss that would occur in losing the team?
The answer is no. And Pawlenty knows this. Once one gets beyond the emotional reaction to the stadium price tag and sees the inherent benefits in it--the immediate 300 million plus dollars being pumped back into the economy, the creation of thousands of jobs in the twin cities, the long term opportunity of using the state of the art facility for tourism dollars--the choice is clear. Revenue from a new stadium would bring in 14 millions dollars in revenue that IS NOT generated by the Vikings. A new stadium is a no-brainer even if you never attend a game. Pawlenty sees it too, but being the politician that he is and having gone on record as unsympathetic to the Vikes, he needs a way to save face while getting the deal pushed through.
Enter Brett Favre. A quick stop to the Vikings Ticket office will get you anecdotes about "The Brett Favre Waiting List"--people who otherwise are not season ticket holders but who are ready to become one as soon the purple ink is dry. Whatever your views are on whether Farve will get us to a Superbowl, the fact is, he'll sell tickets. And generate press. Perhaps increase tourism. Definitely create excitement. And that is what Pawlenty needs: public opinion that says, Farve, who could wear his purple jersey into the Hall of Fame, can't play in the equivalent of a high school stadium.
So, was Pawlenty's comment a nod to getting new digs for the Vikings? Absolutely! If Favre comes to MN, Pawlenty can thank him for saving his career.