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Column #24. The Roll Call Of Those Who Either Called for the Vikings to Move out of Minnesota or Who Stated They Would Have to be Moved As They Could Not Remain Competitive and Profitable Without a New, Tax Payer Subsidized Stadium

First posted with Column #2, January 29, 2005
Ed. Note: To our knowledge, there has been no refutation of this.
Also see Chapter 15, "The Story of Punting the Minnesota Vikings: Say Goodbye tothe Vikings, They are Leaving, Say Goodbye to the Vikings, They are Our Loss. That is the Plan," in The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes, by Ron Edwards, as told to Peter Jessen

Background to the Roll Call

The campaign to force the Vikings to leave formally gained “official status” when former Metropolitan Sports Facility Commission chairman Henry Savelkoul, in 1998, began to frequently trumpet the line that there were too many professional teams once the Vikings were sold to an out of towner. As seen in the “roll call” below, The Savelkoul argument has been affirmed by legislators and businessmen: that four teams cannot “flourish” in the Twin Cities. The key to this is the business community’s refusal to buy four sets of suites. It is not accidental that the area’s major corporations sponsor the Twins, Timberwolves, and Wild, while few sponsor the Vikings.

As noted: to date, we have not seen the roll call of “votes” regarding “leave,” as opposed to “build and stay,” refuted.

The Roll Call

1. 1995: NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in his statement before the Advisory Task Force on Professional Sports in Minnesota, September 25, 1995: if no new stae dium, no stay.

2. 1996: Owners, in their presentation before thSports Facility Commission in December 19, 1996, echoed the commissioner: if no new stadium, no stay.

3. 1997: Then Vikings Chairman John Skoglund hinted in that the team would be forced to move without a new stadium (Pioneer Press, April 10, 1997).

4. 1997: September 16, 1997, Minnesota Business Partnership banquet (membership includes CEOs of the 104 largest companies in the state: 500 of the most influential business chiefs, political leaders and lobbyists attended, “laughed uncontrollably at the whole stadium debate,” and watched a humorous video based on the Ben Hur chariot race.” All understood that a82 stadium was to be built” was “pure myth.”

5. 1997: May 5, 1997, Henry Savakoul, Chairman of the Sports Facility Commission, said, in answering can a team move: “This is not’ Cuba; we don’t get to tell people what to do with their property unless we own it.”

6. 1997: May 8, 1997, “Vikings are Going, Going, Gone!” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder weekly newspaper.

7. 1997: The league [wants to] resolve their stadium uncertainty. The team contends it cannot survive financially in the Metrodome and needs more revenue through renovation, renegotiated leases or both or it could move elsewhere (10-28-97).

8. 1997: In his book, “No Room For Crybabies,” Dennis Green outlines how the team must be bought by a local buyer to prevent it from being sold to an outsider who might move it. The owners initially deny his charge that the team is for sale but then ‘fess up that they are seeking a buyer. The book speculates that any sale to an outsider is a signal that the team will eventually move. Green was trying to head off a sale that would result in the team being moved.

9. 1998: former 1/10th owner Roger Headrick, was outbid by the fake Tom Clancy bid (Tom had disengenuously said he would have kept the team in Minnesota forever; with his Hollywood/LA backing? His divorce got in the way). So the NFL loans Red Mc Combs $100 million to outbid Roger Hedrick. Why? To minimize the fuss when he moves the team, for the fuss will be less for an out of towner. As the Strib reported, Headick appealed saying he had right of first refusal, but the NFL denied him and, thus, denied a local owner.

10. 1998: October 1998, Henry Savakoul, Chairman of the Sports Facility Commission, in a speech entitled “The Viability of Four Major Sports Teams in Minnesota,” gives what Jay Weiner (book “Stadium Games,” 2000) calls “the most chilling” speech heard by anyone who cares about sports in Minnesota, when he said he didn’t see any statewide solution to the pro sports puzzle, that the state was only prepared to support three pro sports, in baseball, basketball and hockey. He said companies were not willing to pay for four sets of luxury boxes and/or suites, and thus doubted more than 3 teams could be supported.

11. 1999: August 31, <b>1999: Red Mc Combs, at the Dunkers breakfast: no new stadium, no stay.

12. 2000: before Weiner’s book came out: former Vikings president Roger Headrick said, “We operated under that assumption pretty much all along, that it would be choosing between the Twins and us.”

13. 2000: Book Stadium Games confirms the above: “In the end, I believe we in Minnesota can’t truly afford four major-league teams (p. 467). Weiner says the business community and legislators identify the Vikings as the odd team out. He suggests that the super leagues of the future will be for major cities leaving lower level leagues for smaller cities (p. 483). This book outlines the rationale by businessmen and legislators for the Vikings to leave.

14. 2000: August: proposal by Peter Jessen to Vikings and Twins on how to build three new stadiums</b> without having to raise new taxes; copy submitted to Minnesota legislature (speaker of the House; leader of the Senate, key legislators; Governor, others). Response: none.

15. 2001: March: word had it that as early as March 2001, Vikings management was in discussion of plans for how to sell and/or move if a new stadium was not forthcoming. And “of course”, as any organization must be prepared for contingencies and eventualities regardless of whether the plans are ever used.

16. 2001 and 2002: This sequence theory: Vikings out, Twins in renovated Metrodome, Gophers new stadium, written about specifically in columns by sportswriter Larry Fitzgerald in Minneapolis (in the Spokesman-Recorder, July 12-18, 2001, July 25, 2002, August 27, 2002).

17. 2002: Few major corporate sponsors hold Vikings luxury boxes or suites: The September 1, 2002 Fortune magazine asked “Why aren’t the Fortune 500 of the Twin Cities supporting the areas #1 team as sponsors, which would ensure the success of the stadium project?”

18. 2002: separately, the U of Minn. and the Vikings reject a joint stadium, as each goes its own way to seek their own.

19. 2002: The book The Minneapolis Story, outlines this entire departure scenario thesis that the Vikings will leave (in Chapter 15).

20. 2002: Nov 26, 2002, Star Tribune: ‘McCombs hired <b> [May 2002] the investment bank J.P. Morgan to explore his options for selling or moving the team.”

21. 2003: On May 23, 2003, Sid Hartman wrote of the May 2003 NFL annual meeting of owners in Philadelphia. They discussed team relocations, a team in L.A., probably one moving, and offered sympathy for Red Mc Combs for not getting a stadium. At 31st in revenue, they all “lose” because, as he can’t make more, there is less to share. The league also had “more concern about getting one or possibly two teams into Los Angeles than worrying about Minnesota, which hasn’t made a strong effort to build a new football stadium.”

22. 2003: May 23 continued: Hartman went on to write: “Like one owner told me last week, ‘Any city with an old stadium that doesn’t allow the extra ticket income that a new stadium does should be nervous about relocation. If you want to be sure to keep your team, get a stadium built.” This year, everybody in the NFC North Division except the Vikings will have an upgraded stadium.’” Thus, Hartman writes, “There might be reason to start worrying about losing this franchise. Mc Combs is talking about relocation all of the time and seems confident that he can win a court battle to break the lease.”

23. 2004: September 3: Forbes Magazine</b> says the Vikings are worth $604 million. “The Vikings’ value ranks 30th in the 32-team league; only Atlanta ($603 million) and Arizona ($552 million) are valued lower in estimates based significantly on local stadium revenue.” In other words, with a new stadium the team would be worth much more and would earn more. Forbes says that in 2003, the Vikings operating income dropped from $35.2 million in 2002 to $4.1 million in 2003. This gives a big excuse for the team to leave. As the line in the Godfather movie goes, “nothing personal, just business.” And football is a business, something Minnesota fans don’t get so some get lulled along to go along with the Vikings leaving.

24. 2004: November 28 Strib: It is reasonable to say that Sid Hartman represents “the establishment” in Minneapolis. In his column “Vikings’ brass cutting costs,” he writes that “Woods and McCombs are cutting all expenses possible as they try to find a buyer for the club, and they are trying to save all the money they can during the process.” Hartman also writes that “Woods said that while the Vikings won’t be part of a big stadium lobbying deal this year, they ‘will have a presence at the State Legislature.’” Finally, Hartman again signals the move by writing about what the legislature has already ruled out: they won’t pay for it. Hartman writes, without protesting it, that “politicians will have to do something. If they don’t, there’s a good chance the Vikings will move somewhere they can get a more favorable lease, possibly at a new stadium.”

25. It is surmised that the only way a Minnesota team will get a stadium is the way Houston got its new stadium: a team has to move out first to get the state to deal realistically and practically with the stadium issue, and that is only if the Savakoul “3 teams only” view is reversed by corporations.

It is ironic that, as story after story in the Star Tribune have noted, the only one stepping forward to make a deal to keep the Vikings in White Minneapolis is Reggie Fowler, a Black man (see here, here, here, here, and here, here. He is now “the Vikings Great Hope” (in the sense Joe Louis was for the Allies in his fight against German Max Schmeling in 1938). Will the city and state, legislators, businesses and fans, back Reggie Fowler, or because he is Black, let the Vikings go, cutting off their noses to spite their face, as they give the ultimate noses turned up gesture to the Vikings fans.

The Cities have backed this up with their actions:

26. St Paul, by agreement, provides financial support for the Excel Center for the NFL Wild;

27. Minneapolis, by agreement, provides financial support for the Target Center for the NBA Timber Wolves;

28. The long term nostalgia and support is for the MLB Twins;

29. There is no zoning passed anywhere for a new stadium;

30. No changes have been made in TIF (tax increment financing) to allow tax breaks; instead: they have been narrowed to exclude stadiums;

31. Environmental concerns could prevent construction for at least a decade (a loss of nearly one billion in local revenues to the team which changed to a gain of over one billion if they moved to L. A. or another city during the same period);

32. Law suits by environmental groups can be expected to block new stadiums just as they did the Amphitheater.

33. The Sports Commission management of the Metrodome favors the 81 home games of the Twins over the 8 home games of the Vikings;

34. Despite this 8 – 81 ratio, as the book Stadium Games (2000) reports, The Vikings pay more than $4 million in rent/year, covering 65% of the Metrodome yearly operating expenses; the Twins pay virtually no rent. In June 2004, the Commission refused to change the imbalanced lease structure, stating it needed the Viking’s revenue to support their operations, almost as if saying, “Don’t you get it? You are supposed to move?” If what they say is true, and the Metrodome needs the Vikings 8 games shoulder the bulk of their operating costs, then it has long been mismanaged and continues to be (unless this is the way to get a new out of town buyer to move the team; Fowler says he will stay).

35. The Twins also get the lion’s share of concessions

36. For the same 81 not 8 home games reasons, the tourist industry favors the Twins over the Vikings;

37. The University will build a new football stadium on campus and does not want potential attendance siphoned off by the Vikings; they want the team to leave. And most “players’ in the state are graduates of The University of Minnesota, which happens to also be the largest university in the country. The University is the elephant in the Minnesota living room.

Despite the steady drumbeat of articles and books on Vikings leaving, no one has raised a protest and no official, to date has refuted any of these claims.

Posted 1-29-05, 2:56 pm, CST

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

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