Vikings' Metrodome Last Days: Should State of Minnesota Fund New Stadium?

Dmitriy IoselevichSenior Analyst IIIDecember 21, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 13: A torn section of the roof sags inside the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 13, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Metrodome's roof collapsed under the weight of snow after a powerful blizzard hit the area on December 12, 2010, forcing the NFL football game between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings to be postponed and relocated to Detroit's Ford Field.  (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings, was already one of the worst stadiums in professional sports.

Then the inflatable roof collapsed under the weight of snow and forced the Vikings to play their home games at the University of Minnesota's stadium.

Now what?

The lease on the Metrodome runs out in 2011, and there's virtually zero chance of it being renewed. Commissioner Roger Goodell and Minnesota governor-elect Mark Dayton, along with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, have been in discussions about building a publicly financed stadium in preparation for the 2012 season. 

Wilf wants it to be an entirely outdoor stadium, which would cut about $200 million off the price tag for construction and maintenance. But even that won't be enough to help Wilf pay for a new stadium by himself.

A publicly financed stadium may be the only way to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, but is it in the best interest of fans and the general Minnesota community?


The Good

Without a new stadium, there's no way the Vikings would be able to stay in Minnesota. That would mean the loss of potentially hundreds of jobs, both within the stadium and around it, that depend on football for their annual income.

The Minnesotan economy doesn't need any more setbacks while it's still recovering from the recession, and losing the Vikings would be a big blow to both the morale and the purchasing power of locals.

A new stadium would also increase attendance at Vikings home games and provide an added boost to the surrounding community. It might even inspire the Vikings to win a few more games or free agents to come to Minnesota.


The Bad

Despite these economic benefits, many studies have shown that stadiums can actually be a drain on the local economy. The jobs created by having the Vikings in Minnesota are jobs that could be replaced by better ones that pay a higher salary.

In addition, the presence of a football team in the city doesn't mean consumers will spend more money. It just means they will spend their money differently, offsetting the main benefits of having a sports franchise in the first place.

Goodell and Dayton expect the Minnesota taxpayers to pay for a stadium. But all the profits of that stadium still go directly to the Vikings' owners and players. Not a single penny of it is filtered down to the average Minnesotan. 

Even if the stadium does provide a boost to the local economy, it's next to impossible for it to provide a long-term benefit that would equal what the stadium costs (typically at least $500 million). That's money the taxpayers are never going to see back, all at the expense of keeping their loved Vikings in Minnesota.

Plus, there's no guarantee that the Vikings will play any better or that attendance figures will remain high.

That seems like a lot of money to grant the team in return for a big, fat maybe—money that might be needed elsewhere in the community.


The Answer?

One option that has not been discussed yet but might be worthy of consideration is the idea of financing the stadium with private money.

The Atlanta Braves' Turner Field was financed entirely by private funding, and the San Francisco Giants' SBC Park received 96 percent private funding.

This protects the taxpayers from having to foot the bill and is more likely to provide a decent return on the investment. The private companies that agree to the venture could receive free sponsorship deals in return, deals that over time may be worth up to $500 million.

But before any corporations step forward and volunteer to pay the bill for a new stadium, the Vikings have to prove that they're going to stay in Minnesota and are committed to winning. That's a difficult thing to do without a playable stadium, and without a serviceable quarterback.

This is going to get uglier before it gets better. But for the sake of every Minnesotan, we can only hope that the NFL doesn't pressure state legislature into making a poor financial decision.