Budget battle threatens Vikings’ future

By Ron Edwards

Since 2002, I have attempted to create a self-defeating prophecy: predicting in such harsh terms that the Vikings would leave so that Minnesotans would understand the seriousness of the Los Angeles Lakers getting their sister team, the Los Angeles Vikings (all posted on my MinneapolisStory.com website).

“The Story of Punting the Minnesota Vikings.” Say goodbye to the Vikings — they are leaving. Say goodbye to the Vikings — they are our loss. That is the Plan, Chapter 15 of my 2002 book.
“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, taxpayer-subsidized stadium,” January 26, 2005 column.

“I told you so. Now let’s save the Vikings!” January 26, 2005 column.

“Explosion on the Vikings plantation,” December 1, 2010 column.

“Can Minnesota afford another stadium? Difficult times force difficult choices,” April 13, 2011 column.

“Budget battle impedes stadium,” the Star Tribune, May 18, 2011.

“Old case against Wilf claims ‘books cooked’,” the Star Tribune, May 18, 2011.

“Vikings’ deal sweeter than Twins. Compared to the deal for Target Field, the Vikings’ Arden Hills plan is full of perks,” Star Tribune, May 19, 2011.

It appears that reality has begun to set in. No agreement. No place to play. $5.1 billion state deficit. Over $1 billion stadium. Open-ended site preparation costs. So far, state leadership can’t get their collective arms around this.

The Star Tribune seems fearful of saying that this failure of state and city leadership may well guarantee the Minnesota Vikings making the long-anticipated move to Southern California.

This is not new news.

There’s been ample time for preparation to head off this disaster. We are now in a giant game of entitlement clashes and free-rider funding desires, with no Merlin around to wave his magic wand.

The Plan and the Momentum suggest a new city for Minnesota’s most prestigious sports franchise. No matter what Ramsey County commissioners say, no matter what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell proclaims, and no matter what owner Zygi Wilf sees as his future in Minnesota, they leave the team in jeopardy.

With no significant and meaningful action, including real dollars, the new kid on the L.A. block will be the Los Angeles Vikings, doing what the Lakers did 50 years ago.

Minnesotans deserve better. They have been loyal and faithful and have paid their fair share for 50 years to support their beloved team. The top Republicans in the Minnesota legislature say, as of the writing of this column, that no stadium plan would pass the legislature until the state’s $5.1 billion budget deficit has been solved.

Given the economic conditions in Minnesota, how will the $6.1 billion needed (budget deficit plus new stadium requirements) be dealt with? Will a little black bag be tossed at someone’s feet?

Will Zygi Wilf’s personal legal problems in New Jersey impact on whether the state thinks it can trust him? Will he take L.A.? Sell? Moving, the best business deal for the Vikings, is still a significant betrayal of loyal Minnesota Vikings fans in Minnesota, in the upper Midwest, and throughout the nation, a betrayal by all Minnesota “leaders.”

Are our “leaders” faking and pretending they have their hands around the problem when in reality they are holding the door open for the Vikings to exit? It looks like it.

This $6.1 billion problem is not new. It is the result of years of legislatures turning their backs on the future. But the future is here. Now. And broke. It is not a realistic possibility for the Vikings to be saved without active leadership from the state.

This is another part of the warnings in my books, blogs and columns: a decline in the quality of life in this country, where rich get richer and poor get poorer, with those in-between being forced to pay down the foolishly accrued debt.

Why is keeping a prized sports franchise no longer a priority for the politicians elected by the fans? It is so sad.

A great institution, a great sports franchise, is on the verge of disappearing from both the Minnesota sports scene and Minnesota’s economic base. The Vikings provided a lot of revenue and a lot of jobs. Someone owes the Vikings faithful an explanation for what is about to happen and why.

Stay tuned.

Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, hosts Black Focus Blog radio, 3:00 pm, Sundays and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOn TheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his archive of columns, solution papers and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.