How does “the People’s Stadium” stand at this hour? Answer: wobbly, as we see from the fierce and personal debates within the Minnesota legislature regarding how to pay for the “People’s Stadium.”
Why the silence from the state’s two major newspapers? Their silence raises serious questions regarding their journalistic integrity. Fear of transparency?
As I have stated unequivocally before, the financial plan to fund the People’s Stadium was ill conceived, rushed without fully vetting the details. As of the writing of this column, the realties are:
• The State of Minnesota is significantly short their $348 million contribution by $346 million.
• The City of Minneapolis is short $150 million of its $150 million contribution.
• State and City interest payments on the debt alone will be close to one billion dollars.
• The Minnesota Vikings met their statutory obligation with $50 million they put into an account in June 2012.
• Now it is being suggested that the Vikings have to come up with an additional $200 million besides the $477 million that they have already committed themselves to contribute.
• The State wishes to drop its contribution to $148 million, which is $2 million less than what the City of Minneapolis is supposed to contribute.
• Legislature adjourns May 20. If they haven’t approved a financial package or intimidated the Vikings into paying more, the stadium will be dead on arrival.
One of the most important foundations of American law is contract law (I warned of this 10 months ago, when it became quite clear that the stadium finance plan was being done with smoke and mirrors). But let’s say that the Vikings pretend that they do not understand the Anglo-Saxon doctrine of contract law and take on $677 million of the $1 billion People’s Stadium.
Isn’t the flip side that they could then insist that the contract with Mortenson as construction manager be invalidated too, enabling them to select their choice? The Vikings had no vote in the decision to select Mortenson. It was done by five individuals representing, at best, financial minority partners.
If contracts don’t count, what else do they plan to invalidate? Wouldn’t the Vikings then have the financial right as prime financial contributor to determine all matters pertaining to design and construction, including replacing Mortenson? I’m sure the Vikings and the NFL are exploring this contingency.
The NFL did not become a multi-billion dollar enterprise by not understanding the rules of financial engagement and contract law. No one puts up 70 percent of a billion dollars without gaining control over how their money will be spent and the project runs, of how subcontracts will be rewarded and how profits will be directed.
It was no coincidence that, when the NFL approved a $200 million loan to the Vikings, some in the legislature and the business communities began to talk about reducing the State’s contribution by $200 million. Purpose: Take the Vikings to the cleaners.
It is troubling that those proposing cutting the State’s contribution seem to believe they don’t have to follow contract law except when they want to. The Vikings understand: When the State’s reduction game was firmly revealed, Les Bagley, Vikings official point man, said, “We can never agree to that because an agreement is an agreement,” clearly stating the Vikings’ and NFL’s legal talking points.
The legislative session ends May 20. There are strong vibrations in many quarters that the door has been opened for the Vikings to begin their journey west. The legislature would be wise to review the debacle surrounding the financing and construction of the MLB Marlin’s baseball stadium in Miami, Florida (Google it): no public vote, mayor recalled, Marlins didn’t meet their obligation, and general political fallout.
The Vikings stadium deal has cut the mayor’s political career short because he purposefully violated the rules of the city’s charter. In terms of city elections in November, there are clear indications that a lot of city council members may not be returning. Why? Because they ignored the wishes of the voters/taxpayers.
Someone has made the decision the Vikings could be played cheap, and that the voters and citizens of Minneapolis could be treated likewise. Big mistake. Agreements are agreements. Contract law is contract law, a strong and irreversible part of the legal doctrine and legal creed that is a strength of America.
In the spring of 2012, an agreement was reached by all parties, etched in legislative language. Some think that Minnesota and the federal courts will allow that agreement to be violated.
The citizens of the state of Minnesota deserve better. This could become an unparalleled disaster in the history of a professional sports team and its relationship with State and City governments and the taxpayers.
Why, Star Tribune, are you so silent in providing the kind of in-depth analysis of what is really happening in the people’s legislature in regards to the future of the People’s Stadium?
Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his columns, blog, and solution papers for community planning and development, at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. Columns are archived at www.theminneapolisstory.com/tocarchives.htm.