It’s been 10 years plus now if you have been keeping count on the Vikings’ attempt to get a new home for Vikings football. Two years ago, the roof of the Metrodome collapsed after a winter storm dropped two feet of snow. Fortunately, the Dome was empty and 63,000 Vikings fans were at home.
The lease agreement the Vikings have with the Stadium Commission expired last year.
Whether it’s owners Red McCombs or Zygi Wilf, or whether the proposed site is Blaine, Arden Hills, or three different sites in downtown Minneapolis, when the rubber meets the road the answer has always been no.
Why is that? I remember McCombs from San Antonio telling me when he owned the team that this community would never build a new Vikings stadium. He then sold the team to Wilf, who is a New York-New Jersey resident, and the politicians see him as a billionaire developer. The Vikings are the least valued franchised of the 32 in the mighty NFL.
The Vikings think it’s their turn because they have been good soldiers and played the game, stepped aside and listened to the politicians in the Twin Cities who asked them to wait, stepped aside and allowed them to build a Wild NHL Hockey Arena in St. Paul, a Gophers football TCF Stadium, and Target Field for MLB the Twins.
A recent story appeared in the Wall Street Journal titled “Two Week Warning for New Vikings Stadium.” Yet a Minnesota House committee last Monday voted 9-6 to reject a $975 million plan to build a new Vikings stadium on the very site of the Metrodome.
Days later, last Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Art Rooney II came flying into town to meet with Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders. The Vikings have never threatened that if they don’t get a new stadium they will move. Minnesota is the only pro football community in the Big Ten where an NFL franchise plays. Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State — in Minneapolis the Vikings are No. 1.
It is a thorn to the old-school rich Gopher alumni and University of Minnesota loyalists who remember vividly what the good old days use to be like when Gopher football Saturday was the number-one and only game in town, with a national championship in 1960 and the Rose Bowl in 1961. Since 1961 the Vikings have been here and Gopher football has not been nearly the same.
That old Gopher guard are like silent killers and have influenced the legislative leaders’ votes. If the Vikings were to leave, who would accept responsibility? Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has pointed out time and again that the Vikings will leave without a new stadium.
The clock is ticking on Minnesota if the current session passes and no vote for a new Vikings stadium passes. It will signal the end.
Wilf and the Vikings have refused to sign a lease extension and will be forced to seek greener pastures. Say Los Angeles! It’s clear the Vikings are not a priority with Minnesota politicians, and waiting any longer, like until next year, is not an option for Wilf and the NFL. Goodell and Rooney made that clear last Friday.
Minnesota politicians may be more concerned with the fact that a third of all Black students K through 12 in public schools in Minneapolis are suspended at least once. Or that the achievement gap in Minneapolis is the worst in the nation between Blacks and Whites. And that the Minneapolis unemployment rate between Blacks and Whites is the worst in the U.S.
Goodell and Rooney want action now before this session ends. And they reminded the legislative leaders that it has to happen now, that the entire House or Senate must vote on this, not a sideshow subcommittee of 15. Time is running out on the state’s most valuable sports franchise.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.
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