It’s Good To Be Zygi

In 2011, taxpayers gave billionaire Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf quite a gift, an even bigger gift than some realized at the time.

Taxpayers invested about half a billion public dollars to help Mr. Wilf construct his $1.1 billion business headquarters, U.S. Bank Stadium.  The State contributed $348 million, and another $150 million came from a Minneapolis hospitality tax. (While it’s often reported that Mr. Wilf paid the remainder, much of the remainder was paid by private interests — the NFL, personal seat license holders, and U.S. Bank.)

This was an extraordinary taxpayer subsidy for any business owner, much less a controversial one worth $5.3 billion who has been found liable by a New Jersey court for breaking civil state racketeering laws.

But Mr. Wilf’s gift from taxpayers went well beyond that $498 million.  State leaders also allowed the billionaire to keep 100% of the increased business value that he has realized since his publicly subsidized business headquarters was authorized.  It turns out, that’s quite an increase.  According to a Forbes magazine estimate, in 2011, the year before the approval of the stadium, Wilf’s business was worth $796 million.  The most recent Forbes estimate puts the value at a breathtaking $2.2 billion.

That’s a tidy little increase of about $1.4 billion, with a “b,” over just six years.

Not all of that $1.4 billion gain is due to the new $1.1 billion stadium and its income-generating capacity, but much of it is.  It’s now clear that if the billionaire owner had financed his business’s building the old fashioned way — without taxpayers footing half of his bill — he would easily have recouped the full amount of his business investment, and then some.  Clearly, Mr. Wilf did not need us.

In 2011, many predicted that Minnesota taxpayers would be making a very rich man substantially richer.  But it’s still breathtaking to watch the money flooding in.  Skol Zygi.

Every Vikings Ticket Carries a $72 Taxpayer Subsidy?

Cursor_and_vikings_suites_-_Google_SearchAre Minnesota Vikings season ticket holders effectively government-dependent welfare queens?  After all, a state legislator’s analysis finds that every Vikings ticket benefits from a taxpayer subsidy of over $72.

If that analysis is correct, it would mean that over the next decade a season ticket-holding family of four will be benefiting from about $29,000 in subsidies from Minnesota taxpayers.  Over the three-decade life of the stadium, the 24 corporate benefactors sipping chablis in the Valhalla Suite will be benefiting from a government subsidy of about $521,000.

And we’re worried about poverty-stricken families on Food Stamps? 

Those figures are based on an analysis done by Minnesota State Senator John Marty (DFL-Roseville).  Senator Marty calculates that the entire taxpayer burden for subsidizing our new People’s/U.S. Bank Stadium is over $1.4 billion.  I’m not a public finance expert, but Senator Marty is a bright guy with access to public finance experts, and he seems to have done a lot of homework to develop this estimate.  He shows his homework in the spreadsheet provided below.

For purposes of the estimate, Senator Marty assumes that the Vikings will sell about 19.5 million tickets over the next 30 years.  While other non-Vikings events will also be held in the facility, Marty’s analysis only looks at Vikings tickets.

From there, it’s a simple calculation: $1.4 billion in subsidy÷19.5 million tickets=$72 subsidy per ticket.

Cursor_and_Subsidy_per_ticket_-_calculated_May_15_2012_pdf__page_2_of_2_Critics may quibble with the specifics of the Marty analysis.  But specifics aside, the undeniable fact remains that Minnesota taxpayers are on the hook for an enormous subsidy that looks to be much larger than the $498 million figure typically quoted during legislative debates.

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Is Zygi Claus As Generous As Local News Coverage Makes Him Out To Be?

zygi_wilf_shovel

Billionaire Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is Minnesota’s Santa Claus. That’s essentially the message local news and sports coverage has hammered into Minnesotans’ heads over the last couple of years.

There has been a steady string of positive headlines promoting the Wilf’s stadium-related generosity: Twin Cities Business magazine: “Wilfs Commit $19.5 million More to New Vikings Stadium.”  Minnesota Public Radio:  “Vikings add 19.7 million to stadium contribution.”  WCCO-TV:  “Vikings, Wilfs To Commit to Additional $14M To New Stadium.”  The Saint Paul Pioneer Press:  “Vikings’ Zygi Wilf to increase stadium contribution.”  The Star Tribune:  “Vikings pony up $49 million for stadium accessories.”

Legendary Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman regularly preaches about how fortunate we Minnesotans are to have the Wilfs lavishing us with additional stadium-related toys out of the goodness of their hearts.  For instance, under the homer headline “Vikings Stadium Will Be Spectacular,” a typical Hartman column tells Minnesotans to “take your hat off to the Wilf family,” and then essentially turns his column over to Vikings executive Lester Bagley’s pro-Wilf spin:

“The Wilf family has put in an additional $95 million since the bill passed the Legislature, because a lot of teams and communities get to this point and they start to cut things [and] we don’t want to cut things. We want to add things and make sure this is the best stadium in the league.

The Legislature had us agree to $477 million in team/private dollars and since the bill passed, on top of that $477 million, the Wilfs have agreed to contribute an additional $95 million and counting.”

In addition to his newspaper columns, Mr. Hartman even more frequently carries the same kind of Wilf cheerleading to the powerful radio airwaves of WCCO-AM.  KFAN-FM and 1500-ESPN also do their fair share to promote Zygi’s stadium contributions to their listeners.

The cumulative effect of all of this has been to paint a portrait of jolly old Zygi Claus and Lester the Elf continually delivering millions of dollars of new stadium toys to Minnesota’s football loving girls and boys.

I don’t blame reporters for those headlines.  The budget increases happened, and reporters need to cover developments like that. Moreover, I’m glad that the Wilfs are paying the extra costs.  It’s better than the alternative.

But as Mr. Wilf prepares to cut the ribbon for his new business asset later this summer, and have even more adoration heaped upon him by Mr. Hartman and others, it’s important to look at the broader context.

Others Paying “Owner’s Share”

Remember that the owner has had lots of help paying the so-called “owner’s share” of the stadium. The Vikings are getting hundreds of millions of dollars from a number of outside sources, such as a NFL loan program, seat licenses paid by fans, and enormous naming rights payments coming from U.S. Bank customers.  As Minnesota Public Radio reported:

“If the team gets the NFL loan, sells naming rights and charges for personal seat licenses according to these estimates, it would have about $115 million of the original $427 million pledge yet to pay. Compared to the upfront price tag on the stadium of $975 million, the amount left is about 12 cents on the dollar.”

Note that this April 2012 MPR analysis was done prior to the Wilf’s increasing their stadium contributions by an additional $95 million or so.   It also was done without solid numbers related to these three types of funding sources.

But details aside, the larger point remains:  What the owner is actually paying is only a small fraction of what is described in news coverage as “the owner’s share.”

Star Tribune sports columnist and 1500ESPN radio analyst Patrick Reusse also wrote an excellent 1500ESPN blog post asserting that about $450 million of the Wilf’s share will be paid by someone other than the Wilfs.  Reusse’s analysis was titled “Quite a Bonanza For Our Stadium Martyr.”  However, the radio station appears to have removed the post.

“Worst Deal From Sports Team”

Mr. Wilf is the generous one?  Really?  Minnesota taxpayers are bearing a heavy burden for the stadium, because the Wilfs insisted on it, during a decade worth of legislative warfare.  In naming the Twin Cities one of “5 cities getting the worst deals from sports teams,” MarketWatch asks:

“How do you get taxpayers to chip in $500 million on a more than $1 billion stadium when only one city, Indianapolis ($620 million), has ever paid that much?”

MarketWatch also notes that Minneapolitans “will end up paying $678 million over its 30-year payment plan once interest, operations and construction costs are factored in.”

I’m not informed enough about every stadium deal in the nation to say whether MarketWatch is correct that Minnesotans got one of the worst deals ever.  But it is important to understand that Minnesota taxpayers are being extraordinarily generous to the Vikings owners, not the other way around.

Wilfs Are Takers, Not Givers

By any reasonable analysis, the Wilfs are the big takers in this scenario.  They are not, as much of the news and sports coverage has implied or asserted, the big givers.  After all, this luxurious new taxpayer subsidized stadium won’t make taxpayers’ wealthier, but it is already making the Wilf’s much wealthier.

Forbes magazine estimates that the Vikings franchise, which reportedly was purchased by the Wilfs for about $600 million in 2005, was worth $796 million in 2011, the year before the stadium subsidy was approved.  By 2015, after the taxpayer subsidy was approved by the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Dayton, Forbes estimates the value of the Wilf’s business had spiked to $1.59 billion.

That’s a remarkably quick appreciation going to Zygi Claus’s bottom line in the post-stadium approval era.  Add what the owners will be pocketing due to large increases in stadium-related revenue in the coming years, and it’s pretty clear that the Wilfs are making out like bandits.

Precise analysis is pretty much impossible on this subject, because executives are not nearly as forthcoming about details related to the loan, seat licenses and naming rights as they are about contributions. However, this is roughly what it looks like to me:  Zygi Claus is investing something in the neighborhood of $200 million to see his business valuation increase by at least $800 million, and probably quite a bit more over time.

None of this is illegal, or all that unusual.  But it also is not Santa Claus.

My Vikings Legacy Brick

Vikings_brickMy kids are all too aware of my unhealthy obsession with the Minnesota Vikings, so for Christmas they splurged and got me a “Legacy Brick”, which will be part of the plaza on the front porch of the Vikings new stadium.

I’m embarrassed to admit how much this gift pleased me.  After all, I’m a grown ass man. I understand this is just an appeal to vanity and hero worship as a way to have rubes like me finance an asset that will make billionaire Vikings owner Zygi Wilf wealthier.

But come on, it’s granite, with my name on it, in the Vikings’ front yard! How AWESOME is that? The Vikings and I were both born in 1961, and I and other family members, living and dead, have closely followed them for as long as I can remember.  This is a chance to memorialize our collective misery.

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Better yet for a guy who likes to write, the accompanying brochure pledges that “your personal message” will be engraved on the brick. Hot damn, a blank slate!

As a long-suffering fan of the historically snake bit franchise, my mind immediately went to trolling. That is, I considered capturing a grievances in granite.

For instance, in homage to the embattled offensive tackle Matt Kalil, who fans particularly love to hate when the offense is sputtering, I considered a paver inscribed, “Walk all over me, just like Kalil gets walked on.” Petty, but gratifying.  Similarly, to celebrate the storied career of the plodding tight end Jimmy Kleinsasser, I thought about submitting “This brick is faster than Kleinsasser.”  Or to honor running back Adrian Peterson (AP), who has 33 maddening fumbles as part of his Hall of Fame career, I was tempted to go with “Me: One on the ground for my team. AP: 33.”

And then there are the numerous scandals that could have been cathartic fodder for brick copy.  The Love Boat sex scandal.  The Adrian Peterson child abuse.  The endless player prosecutions.  The arrogance and immaturity of Randy Moss.

I also considered commemorating my own lameness as a fan. I waxed nostalgic about a frigid day in December 1980 when a boyhood friend and I left a game at Met Stadium early. As it turns out, we missed seeing the greatest comeback victory in Vikings history against the Cleveland Browns, only to be scolded by a highway patrolman during our solemn drive back to South Dakota. The paver could mock us, just as the officer did that day: “You boys left early, huh? 12-14-80.”

That friend also suggested a granite haiku that captured the epic tragedy that is Vikings fandom:

Left early against Browns,
Take a knee, wide left Atlanta.
Life of a Vikings fan.

I don’t mind telling you, that one made me misty.

Political animal that I am, I also really would have loved to make a political statement, such as “Bought this brick for a billionaire.” That would really stick it to The Man, and bring some progressive awareness to the old town square!  It also would effectively clarify that “yeah, I’m a chump alright, but I’m a politically savvy chump!”

Naturally, I considered Packer hating: “Packers fans got 13 championships. I got this brick.” I also wondered if I could get this past the censors “Puck the Fackers.” See what I did there?

But alas, after all of my fantasizing, I finally read the fine print on the Vikings’ website:

Discriminatory, political, offensive, or inappropriate messages as determined by the Minnesota Vikings and MSFA will be declined. References to other NFL teams will not be accepted. The Minnesota Vikings and MSFA reserve the right to approve all brick inscriptions. Inscriptions that do not conform to these inscription guidelines or that are deemed unsuitable will be declined and will require a new inscription to be submitted.

My creative visions all were ruined by the Vikings. Between this censorship and a rather severe character restriction, my options were very limited. So, I played it straight:

Skol or uffda,
bleeding purple
since 1961.
Loveland Family

Booooooring. Schmaltzy!

Hey, but it’s my name, in granite, in the Vikings’ front yard!

Who Negotiated That Stadium Deal Again?

Vikings PR people like to tell Minnesotans that the team’s owner, billionaire Zygi Wilf, is paying about 60 percent of the ever-growing $1.2 billion stadium cost.  The truth, as Star Tribune/1500ESPN columnist Patrick Reusse pointed out back in May 2012, is that something like $450 million of the Wilf’s share will be paid by people other than the Wilfs. For instance, season ticket holders will be making exorbitant seat license payments to the Wilfs, the National Football League will be paying a subsidized “loan” to the Wilfs, and U.S. Bank will be making naming rights payments to the Wilfs.  All of this will offset the Wilf’s stadium costs by about $450 million.

Taking all of that into consideration, Mr. Wilf looks to be shelling out more in the neighborhood of  $250 million of his own money, or 21% of the cost of the $1.2 billion total, not the 60 percent the Vikings claim.  It’s difficult for an outsider to come up with precise numbers, but that seems like a pretty fair, pardon the pun, ballpark estimate.

Meanwhile, state and local taxpayers are paying about half a billion dollars for the Vikings’ stadium, or about 40 percent percent of the stadium cost.  In other words, taxpayers are paying significantly more than the billionaire owner.

Despite being the majority investor, taxpayers have no say in the name of the stadium, and will be getting 0 percent of the estimated $10 million per year of corporate naming rights payments that U.S. Bank will be paying over the next two decades.  The billionaire Wilfs will be getting 100 percent of the $220 million in naming rights payments.

Formerly_People_s_Stadium

mao_tiananmen_squareIt’s bad enough that U.S. Bank looks to be getting more corporate visibility than Chairman Mao demanded for himself at Tiananmen Square. To add insult to aesthetic injury, taxpayers aren’t getting a single penny for putting up with U.S. Bank’s excessive corporate graffiti.

And so ladies and gentlemen, I give you U.S. Bank Stadium, formerly billed to skeptical taxpayers as the “people’s stadium.”  State leaders should be doing some retrospective soul-searching about how they got so thoroughly fleeced by the Wilfs on this deal.

Where Are All Of Minneapolis’s Dead Birds?

By my count, the 35 tallest buildings in Minneapolis have about 1,200 stories, and all of them have a lot of windows, if not solid glass walls.   That’s a lot of glass.

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Vikings_stadiumThe new Minnesota Vikings Stadium will be 30-stories at its highest point, and it has glass walls on part of it.   Therefore, bird advocates warn Minnesotans that the new stadium is going to be responsible for the death of about 1,000 birds per year, even with the lights turned off at night. So, they are demanding that the Vikings owners pay for polka dot windows, which apparently mitigates the birdocide, but is less beautiful to the Wilfs.

If that’s true, why don’t Minneapolitans currently see tens of thousands of dead birds lying around their glassy city?  That many bird corpses would be difficult to miss.  I’m very open to the possibility that this is simplistic thinking, but can someone explain where all the dead birds are?

Give to the Max, In Context

retro_calculatorThe 120,000 Minnesota small donors who heroically pulled together to pool an $18 million donation during yesterday’s  Give MN’s “Give to the Max Day” should be very proud of themselves.

They set an all time record!  Wooo hooo. That’s the power of the grassroots.

But just to put that in context, consider that:

  • If KSTP-TV owner Stanley Hubbard donated 1% of his estimated $2.1 billion net worth, his donation would be $21 million, 28% more than the 120,000 Minnesotans gave.  Even after such a large donation, Stanley would still have $2.08 billion dollars left over to put fishsticks on his table.

The “giving to the max “ of these 120,000 big hearted Minnesotans is noble and notable.  But honestly, this kind of news story must be greeted with a “well isn’t that adorable” chuckle from the wealthiest Minnesotans.

– Loveland

Minneapolis Stepping On It’s Applause Line

Betsy_Hodges_begs_for_applauseSo Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges is directing Minneapolitan social media mavens to tweet on over to #bragmpls to brag about Minneapolis, and run down other cities.

 “When you go to their cities,” she joked, “talk about how disappointing they are compared to Minneapolis.”

I can hear it now.

“Yeah, New York City is nice and all, but frankly Central Park is a little disappointing compared to The Yard.”

“Chicago? I hate to be mean, but I was a little disappointed that the architecture was all so old, kind of like Minneapolis had before we had the good sense to demolish it, and replace with a fresh 1970s look.”

“San Francisco, meh. I looked everywhere to find a Culver’s, but was sooooo disappointed to learn that they haven’t arrived there yet. I couldn’t wait to get home.”

Okay, I acknowledge Mayor Hodges was making a joke when she talked about expressing disappointment in other cities.  Still, the hashtag cheerleading campaign is no joke to Mayor Hodges and her public relations team.   And to me, her public begging for hashtags is a wee bit #pathetic.

Of all of the contrived things about contemporary professional sports stage management, nothing is more inauthentic than the Jumbotron exhortations for fans to “Make Some Noise!” The piped-in artificial rhythmic clapping and the mind-numbingly chirpy D.J. Casper song “Everybody Clap Your Hands” fall into the same category.   Inevitably these perky little pick-me-ups come when the bats are silent, the defense is porous, and the hometown ownership is starting to worry about meeting its beer sales targets.

But here’s the thing: Minneapolis’s bats are not silent.

rainbow_all_star_gameIn fact, Minneapolis is kicking some serious ass right now. Two new mega-expensive LRT lines are flowing through Minneapolis, and a third appears to be on the way. An iconic billion dollar football palace is rising out of the ground to replace the embarrassing  Metrodome. The metro area has the lowest unemployment of any metro area in the nation. Minnesota has the second lowest uninsured rate in the nation. The city’s population is growing, driven by a remarkable residential housing boom in the downtown area.  The Super Bowl, the most visible sporting event in America, is coming.  And baseball fans from around the world are watching professional baseball’s All Star Game in one of the best ballparks in the world, with a rainbow framing it, right here in our Minnie Apple.

The applause is happening organically. So turning on the flashing “Applause!” sign and publicly waving the mayoral pom poms in the midst of genuine, unprompted applause constitutes stepping on your own applause line.   Methinks we’re trying just a little too hard.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured on MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.

The Strib boldly goes … .

Lambert_to_the_SlaughterTo give credit where credit is rarely due, I must say I read Mike Kaszuba and Rochelle Olson’s Sunday piece on the beyond-parody list of freebies and concierge services the NFL demands of its Super Bowl host cities and had a hard time stifling my amazement. Not that the NFL demands/”requests” for stuff like police escorts for team owners who have already had special clearance to land their private jets at local airports … I fully assumed that … the surprise was that the Star Tribune ran the story on 1A.

While the scoop of a reporter actually getting his/her paws on the … 153-page … document wherein one of the most lucrative commercial enterprises in America sets down in writing exactly how it expects to be treated like a preening Kardashian was far to juicy to ignore, I will argue that a year ago, the Strib would have conceived a rationale for tucking it away from the heavy traffic. The paper, certainly its opinion page, really has been that obvious a shill for the NFL for that long.

There’s a very revealing, amusing tell-all e-book in some Strib insider’s account of the myriad ways the paper failed the basic rules of journalistic skepticism in its sustained campaign for the lop-sided stadium contract with which taxpayers are now ladened. This would include, for example, why the sharpest criticism of the deal voiced by veteran sports writer Pat Reusse — a bona fide opinion leader for the sad rubes bowing in front of Zygi Wilf — appeared not in the Strib, but in his blog at KSTP radio.

I’ll say what I’ve said before (and often), we — the whole damned country — are chumps for the NFL, excuse me, the non-profit NFL. The mix of martial combat, brute machismo and show biz mythologizing makes for an irresistible marketing package. Which is fine. In America everyone’s got something to sell. But what a newspaper like the Star Tribune is supposed to be selling is skepticism, among other vital virtues.

The sports culture’s radio and TV front men, the jocks and sports anchors, have a clear vested interest in boosting/shilling for the fundamental assets of the home team. While cranks like me might admire them more if they made a full-throated, common sense argument against the NFL’s “standard” financing package for these extravagant stadiums, I get that they’re basically publicity agents for the local teams and the league. For them there is no financial upside to quarreling with how the NFL chooses to do business.

But people who regularly lay claim to being “hard-nosed”, “bulldog” reporters have no excuse for running as little contradictory information about the stadium contract as the Strib did during the long, long legislative negotiating saga.

As I say, the opinion page’s drumbeat support, as appalling as it was to people like me who saw so little effort made to deviate from that “standard” financing model — one that always includes the threat of moving the beloved local team to Los Angeles, (a move that would cost the other 31 financially-adroit owners a hell of a lot of money in comparison to carving up a likely $1 billion fee for creating an entirely new team there) — was not surprising. The publishers and owners of enterprises as large as the Strib think of themselves as peers to team owners, and like the NFL plutocracy are generally familiar with the myriad benefits of tax and taxpayer manipulation.

The question for the Strib of this generation is this: In the context of the Vikings stadium saga, who in the newsroom is prepared to publicly assert that the firewall between the publisher’s financial interests and the newsroom’s journalistic instincts was never breached? That in no way were editorial responsibilities in this very expensive matter obstructed or diluted as a result of influence from the executive suites?

Finally, to Kaszuba and Olson … nice work.

But as Columbo used to say, “There’s just one little thing that bothers me.”

In the course of laying out all the freebies the NFL demands — the police escorts, the free parking, the deleted taxes, the NFL channel in official hotels, the 180-person, all-expenses-paid junket — would it have been too much to drop in one short line about how all these niggling perks are to the benefit of … some of the richest human beings on the planet? Truly the .1% of the 1%ers?

I know, I know, that would be “editorializing”, an unforgivable cardinal sin of serious journalism. But it would have put things in a perspective the average subscriber might better understand.

– Brian Lambert

The Yard Canard: Presenting Our Featureless New Corporate Playground

Marred_YardA few days ago, I noted an evolution happening with The Yard, the park planned for west of the new Vikings Stadium.  In the 2018 Super Bowl bid put together by corporate leaders, images of The Yard  were changed from depicting the public playground Minnesotans were initially pitched as part of Governor Dayton’s “People’s Stadium” vision into the more lucrative corporate playground the Vikings’ wealthy owners and their corporate partners covet for  Super Bowl soirees.

This weekend, a Star Tribune editorial bemoaned the Super Bowl bid committee’s proposal for The Yard:

“The public first glimpsed the Yard as depicted in Ryan’s initial renderings: a lush public expanse of grass and trees framing the city skyline. Even in winter, with snow on the evergreens and skaters on a pond, the Yard was to be the “money shot” that defined our city and state to viewers worldwide, as well as a bustling activity zone for fans on game days and for neighbors and downtown workers on the other 355 days of the year.

But a newer image adds tents of various sizes and exclusive activities for Vikings ticket holders for at least 10 days a year, plus events sponsored by the (Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority) MSFA on part of the park for as many as 40 additional days. During rare mega-events like the Super Bowl or the Final Four, garish tents could cover nearly the entire park space, largely to accommodate national security requirements.”

First, national security officials are obviously capable of securing a small public park on Super Sunday.  Maybe skaters would have to walk through metal detectors.  Maybe snow fences and security personnel would have to be temporarily used on the perimeter, as is frequently done on the much larger Mall in Washington, DC.  Come on Star Tribune, are you really buying the Vikings’ claim that ice skaters are some kind of utterly unmanageable national security risk?

But it gets worse.   The Star Tribune then explains that the de-parkification of The Yard goes well beyond Super Sunday.

The upshot is that, yes, the Yard still aims to be both active and attractive, but unfortunately with fewer trees and fewer permanent amenities (public art, fountains, cafes, etc.) than originally imagined, and with more open space for flexible programming, most of it public but some private.

While that doesn’t rule out public skating in winter or soccer and outdoor movies in summer, all of the setting-up and tearing-down of tents and platforms will damage grass and other natural features and, more than that, will consume beauty and time that the public had expected to get.

So, let me get this straight.  The Yard will be exactly like a park, except with few trees,  gardens, water features, art or recreational-oriented equipment or structures.  Other than lacking those typical park features, and being regularly shut down and ground to a pulp by corporate parties, The Yard will be exactly like all the best urban parks.

The Star Tribune, which will be relocated very close to the Yard, seemed disappointed to learn of the newly marred Yard.  But ultimately the editorial staff did what it often does when powerful downtown interests are in play.  It pretty much fell in line with the corporate viewpoint.

It’s nearly impossible to accomplish anything big — say, a Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis or an adjacent park — without the financial contributions and willing cooperation of various governments, private companies and nonprofit groups, all with competing interests. The result is often a compromise that doesn’t measure up to every expectation.

“Nearly impossible.”  So that’s what we’ve come to.  Public representatives can no longer create a public park that serves public needs, even after making a half a billion dollar public investment in the development of the area?

The next time you go to Lakewood Cemetery, take a copy of this “nearly impossible” editorial and lay it on the ground.   That rumbling you feel is one Charles M. Loring rolling over in his grave.

– Loveland

Super Bowl Bid Bust: Why Are We Destroying The Yard With The Pole Building?

Minneapolis_The_Yard_winterYou may have seen the artist renderings.  The drawings lay out a vision for The Yard, the planned four-acre urban park adjacent to the mammoth new Vikings Stadium.  In the winter versions, the park is shown populated by happy, hearty Minnesota families  skating, admiring ice sculptures, making snow angels and generally laughing in the face of Old Man Winter.

Minneapolis_skating_outdoorsWhen I look at that rendering, I can clearly hear the soundtrack.

“When it snows,
ain’t it thrilling?  
Though your nose
gets a chilling. 
We’ll frolic and play
the Eskimo way. 
Walking in a winter wonderland.”

That, my friends, is us.  Minneapolis has the best park system in the nation, because Minneapolitans loves them some outdoor activities in all seasons.  That’s why this little outdoor space has emerged as one of the more intriguing, unifying and endearing elements of the Minneapolis stadium area vision.   It is a quintessential Minnesota kind of space being built on Minnesota’s most visible stage.

But the corporate types dreaming up the Super Bowl bid don’t see it that way.  They  promised the NFL muckety-mucks that they would replace The Yard with, well, The Pole Barn.

Minneapolis_super_bowl_-_Google_SearchWell, technically, I guess it’s going to be a tent, but in the artist’s renderings, the ginormous grad party tent looks more like a poultry pole barn to me.  To be fair, it does have a very snazzy Super Bowl LII logo on the roof, making it one of the more swank pole barns I’ve ever seen.

I understand what the Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his merry band of corporate boosters are shooting for with this idea.  They wanted to reassure delicate NFL billionaire owners who have heard nasty rumors about Minnesota weather that we are in possession of heat, and are prepared to pipe it in wherever the partying swells desire it.

But making The Yard into the The Pole Building is going too far.  We don’t want the Goodyear blimp’s panoramic shots of  Super Bowl LII to portray a generic Super Bowl scene.   We want those  shots to portray a uniquely Minnesota Super Bowl scene.  We want to show the world happy, hearty Minnesotans laughing in the face of Old Man Winter.

After all, we are who we are, and we should be proud of who we are.  We want to show the world that Minnesotans don’t just survive winter weather; we find ways to have fun in winter weather.  Showing everyone skulking into an ugly heated tent paints quite the opposite picture.

To be clear, I’m strongly in favor of heat in February.  By all means, heat the airport, taxis, buses, trains, transit stations, skyways, hotels, convention center, shopping centers, restaurants, bars, strip joints, water parks, indoor skating rinks, theaters, museum and, of course, stadium.  Heck, I’d even be okay cranking it up a few extra degrees for those couple of weeks.

But don’t, repeat don’t heat, sterilize and corporatize the outdoor space that we are building to frolick and play the Eskimo way on the national stage.  Super Bowl week or not, let’s let Minneapolis be Minneapolis.

Loveland

Note:  This post also appeared on streets.mn.

Are Vikings Whitewashing Bird Droppings Issue?

There are many big unanswered questions associated with the new stadium being constructed for the Minnesota Vikings.

  • How will we pay for our new sports palace if iPad gambling problems continue?
  • Will we be able to host a Super Bowl, so Johnny Manziel and the rest of the Vikings can enjoy home field advantage?
  • Will Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods be served at the new stadium (If so, I’m guessing polite Minnesotans will  call them “Different Foods,” so no one feels bad.)?

bird_poop_on_windshieldThose are important questions.  But I’m focused on something REALLY important:  How are we going to stop the world’s largest transparent roof from becoming the world’s largest collection of bird excrement?

I’m quite serious.  Think about it.  Your standard automobile windshield is about 15 square feet.  At that size, it is a bird shit magnet.  But, the saving grace is that your windshield is easily cleaned with a touch of a button, or at least with your feet planted firmly on the ground.

vikings_stadium_roofYour Vikings stadium transparent roof, on the other hand, will be 240,000 square feet, the largest such transparent roof in the world.  Local birds will have a target that will be difficult to miss.  And so far as I know, Zygi Wilf is not springing for a ginormous windshield wiper system.  Because of this, over time I’m concerned our transparent roof could end up as gray as the Metrodome roof.

Pioneer Press reporter Bob Sansavere asked about this almost a year ago, and was given a curt answer by the Vikings’ Lester Bagley.

“The ETFE (ethylene-tetraflouroethylene) product is self-cleaning.”

Blue skies, nothing but blue skies, according to Mr. Bagley.  Mr. Sansavere didn’t probe for details about that “self cleaning” claim, but I remain curious.   How exactly does “self cleaning” work?

  • Do plopping molecules disintegrate when encountering with ethylene-tetraflouroethylene molecules?
  • Is ETFE so darn slippery that bird poop immediately slides off of it? (In which case I have pedestrian-oriented follow-up questions.)
  • Are the Vikings planning to deploy something from Ronald Reagan’s strategic defense initiative (SDI) to protect the roof from sparrow-launched missiles?
  • Do we believe that local grackles will have so much reverence for the dazzling beauty of ETFE that they will voluntarily take their business elsewhere?
  • Can I get this miraculous bird shit-proof technology installed on my car and home?

Mr. Bagley’s “self cleaning” claim might very well be true. But since we taxpayers are buying about half a billion dollars worth of stock in the world’s biggest shrine to ethylene-tetraflouroethylene, I want to hear more.

– Loveland

Note:  This post also appeared in streets.mn and Minnpost.

A New Nickname For Minnesota’s New Stadium

The_Dome_Deflated-3The stadium formerly known as Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome” (MOAF@HHHM) obviously screamed out for shorthand, or a nickname.  So most of us just called it “The Dome,” much to the chagrin of the MOAF@HHHM brand managers.

“The Dome” was a bite-sized and descriptive label, so it worked better for ordinary people. “Metrodome,” “Thunderdome,” or “Homerdome” were occasionally in the mix, but usually it was simply “The Dome.”

But now that “The Dome” has been popped in spectacularly anticlimactic fashion, stadium officials are focusing on naming the replacement.   The corporate auction over naming rights probably will lead to a name that will be a mouthful, and therefore probably will be replaced by the masses with a new nickname.

Vikings_Stadium-2So what will we use as a shorthand reference for our new sports palace?  I’m hoping the nickname will be derived from the nature of the structure itself, as “The Dome” was.  When the shorthand is derived from the corporate name –  see “the bank” and “TCF Bank Stadium” – that strikes me as selling out to The Man.  Taxpayers paid significantly more to finance the stadium than the corporate sponsor, so I hate for the nickname to give the suits all the credit.

Like “The Dome,” the new nickname should be 1) concise and simple and 2) descriptive of a differentiating feature of the building.  Here are few options to spark  community brainstorming:

  • The Ship.  We’re told the architects were going for a Viking ship look with their design.  Therefore, calling the stadium “The Ship” could help architecturally challenged citizens like me appreciate the method behind the madness.  The park to the west then could be the Ship Yard, The Dock, or something corny like that.  To get more authentic, we could call it the Knarr, Karve, or Faerring.  But that’s probably too Scandi-geeky, even for Minnesota.
  • The Hipsterdome.  Minneapolis hipsters can’t like anything that the masses like, such as pro football stadia.  If they sided with the masses, they wouldn’t be hipsters.  However, if the non-hipster masses express disapproval for the controversial modernist design,  hipster contrarians would feel compelled to embrace it to show that they alone can see the genius in the design.  In that case, “Hipsterdome” would give Minneapolis hipsters ownership, or blame, depending on your opinion of the design.
  • The Oops.  I kind of like the unusual design, but I’m not sure it’s beautiful.  It’s asymmetrical form is reminiscent of everyone’s first “oops” pottery project.   It’s misshapen and lopsided, but, doggone it, it’s our misshapen and lopsided.  For some, dubbing it “The Oops” would represent a celebration of the beauty of bold non-conformity.  For others, “The Oops” would serve as a populist critique of the fancy pants architect, who clearly is “not from here.”
  • The Cheeseball.  Get it?  You know, because it looks like a cheeseball after the  guests have hacked it up?   You seriously don’t see that??!
  • The Sunporch.  Our new stadium will have the largest transparent roof in the world, and the largest casement windows in the world.  In other words, the Wilfs are constructing  the world’s largest sunporch.  You know, one of those pre-fab transparent porches that are always tempting pale, Vitamin D-deprived Minnesotans at the Home Shows?  In the middle of a brutal winter, what midwesterner doesn’t want to spend time battling Seasonal Affective Disorder in “The Sunporch?”
  • The Artless Museum.  The Vikings stadium design seems derivative of the Weisman Art Musem and Walker Art Museum, so “The Artless Museum” would help people understand the differentiation among those three buildings. That is, this is the chunky building that contains no art.   “The Artless Museum” also would serve as commentary on the quality of the home team on permanent display.
  • The Rohrschach.  If you asked 100 Minnesotans what this amorphous new stadium  looks like, you might get 100 more different answers.  So rather than having a nickname that forces a single interpretation on everyone, maybe we should nickname it after the psychological inkblot test that allows for an unlimited number of interpretations.
  • The AntiDome.   It’s the AntiDome because the jagged, asymmetrical shape is the polar opposite of the smooth, symmetrical Dome.  It’s the AntiDome because it overcomes the things we hated about the Dome – the drabness, the frumpyness, and the shabby amenities.   The Dome is dead, long live the AntiDome.

Ok, maybe I’m not entirely serious about all of these options.  If you think you can do better, add your voice.  Like it or not, with a community project as prominent and distinctive as this one, nicknaming will happen.  So how about we give it some collective thought?

– Loveland

 

Note:  This post also was featured in streets.mn, Twin Cities Daily Planet, and Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs.

Vikings Should Investigate Priefer Bigotry Charges Before Making Him Head Coach

Chris_KleweLast year I wrote a blog post asking the question “Is Chris Klewe Getting A Same Sex Divorce?”  I asked whether the Vikings punter, who had the best punting statistics in Vikings history according to KFAN Vikings analyst Paul Allen, was replaced by a Vikings coach who opposes same sex marriage because of his vocal support for same-sex marriage.

But whatever the real reason(s) for Mr. Klewe’s firing, new information shared by Klewe may need to be factored into the Vikings’ pending decision about its next Head Coach.

In a lengthy Huffington Post piece released today, Klewe shared several stories of allegedly disgusting encounters with his Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer, who is reportedly the leading internal candidate to replace Leslie Frazier as Vikings Head Coach.  Klewe claimed Priefer’s tone changed after Klewe starting speaking out for gay rights:

Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. He would ask me if I had written any letters defending “the gays” recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed. I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things. After all, he was directly responsible for reviewing my job performance, but I hoped that after the vote concluded in Minnesota his behavior would taper off and eventually stop.

According to Klewe, all pretenses of joking went away as time went on:

Near the end of November, several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting. The atmosphere was decidedly tense. I had never had an interaction that hostile with any of my teammates on this issue—some didn’t agree with me, but our conversations were always civil and respectful. Afterward, several told me that what Mike Priefer had said was “messed up.”

Messed up indeed.  If this account is accurate, Priefer has proven that he can’t separate his personal bigotry from his coaching job.  That’s a huge problem.

It will be very difficult to get players to publicly corroborate Klewe’s version of the stories, because current players obviously have every reason to avoid offending coaches who hold their multi-million dollar careers in their hands.  Special teams players especially tend to be “on the bubble” between being on and off the team.  Therefore, they will be particularly careful about what they say about the people who make decisions about final cuts.

But this is why I’m inclined to believe Mr. Klewe:  If Klewe were making this whole thing up, why he would be citing rants that happened in front of large groups of other players?  Love him or hate him, Klewe is a bright guy, and he could surely fabricate more bulletproof lies, such as tirades that he alone witnessed.

Reasonable football fans can disagree about whether Mr. Klewe should have been replaced as the Vikings punter.  In his piece, Klewe himself acknowledged that his high veteran salary and his age were likely contributory factors, in combination with his outspokenness.

But reasonable people should be able to agree that anyone who rants about killing an entire class of humans because of who they love should not be representing the State of Minnesota as the head coach of our most popular professional sports team, a team that is now being heavily subsidized by Minnesota taxpayers.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf should be able to learn whether Klewe’s accounts are true.  Confidential one-on-one inquiries with other other special players who were at the meetings Klewe references should reveal the truth.  If Wilf finds that Klewe’s accounts about Priefer are true, or even half true, Priefer’s name should be immediately removed from the Vikings’ list of Head Coach candidates.

– Loveland

Mistaken Dayton

mark_dayton_Photo_by_Minnesota_Public_Radio-2Teddy Roosevelt said “the only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”

A couple years back, Governor Mark Dayton was trying to do something.  He was attempting to do something that scores of other elected leaders had failed to do, after about a decade of trying.  To great fanfare, he helped strike a bipartisan Vikings stadium financing deal that was passed into law.  But in the process, the Governor and Legislature made a big honkin’ mistake in relying on electronic pulltabs to finance the stadium.

I don’t admire the Governor’s mistake.  But mistakes happen to human beings, and I do admire two things that mistaken Dayton has done in the wake of the error.

Mistake Admitted

The first thing I admire about the Governor is that he admitted the mistake.   He said the four humble words you rarely hear coming out of elected officials’ mouths —  “We made a mistake.”    In the Star Tribune, Governor Dayton didn’t sugar coat, blame, or make excuses:

“We made a mistake, and corrected it.”

It should be noted that the Governor didn’t say this right away.   He was initially hoping that time might heal the e-pulltab wounds, and it was probably reasonable to give the new product a bit of time to develop a following.  But he did admit the mistake quickly enough to keep the stadium project on track, and that’s something that modern politicians almost never do any more.

Admitting mistakes is a core competency voters need to demand from elected officials.  Mistakes are inevitable for any leader, and admitting them is the sign of a courageous, constructive and honest leader, not a weak one.  After all, mistakes usually don’t get fixed until they’re identified and owned.  If we don’t have leaders who are willing to do that, we’ll be stuck with a government focused on cover-ups, mop-ups and work-arounds.

Correct Lesson Learned

The second thing I admire about the Governor’s admission is that he learned the correct lesson from the mistake.  Errors present teachable moments where leaders can learn the wrong or right lessons.  Wise leaders learn the right lessons.

As I wrote a while back, the right lesson here is NOT that private sector fiscal input is always evil or incompetent, or that anything that the Vikings owners’ endorse must be rejected on its face. These are the conclusions that a lot of stadium critics have been pushing, and they are rash and wrong.

Fiscal analysts would be foolish to reject private sector vendors’ input as part of their analysis.  Just because they were spectacularly wrong in this case doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be used.  History shows that private sector input is one important element, among many others, of good policymaking.

Governor Dayton learned the correct primary lesson from his misstep:

“To take an untried source of revenue for the sole source of funding for a major project is ill-advised. That’s my number one take-away from this.”

When it comes to new revenue sources derived from the sales of a product that is completely new to the marketplace, all public and private analysts are guessing.  They aren’t guessing because they are incompetent, lazy or corrupt.  They are guessing because there is no historical consumer demand data to inform sound fiscal analysis.  That is why a virgin revenue source should never have been used by the Governor and Legislature, not because the Wilfs and pulltab vendors are necessarily scoundrels intent on scamming taxpayers.

Admit the mistake promptly, and learn the right lesson.  In a system run by mistake-prone human beings, that’s the best we can expect of any leader.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was featured in Minnpost and in Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs.

Wilf’s Minnesota Partners Should Seek Advice From Their New Jersey Partners

Josef_Halpern_Wilf_business_partner_photo_credit_New_Jersey_Star-LedgerMinnesotans are about to become business partners with Zygi Wilf, to the tune of half a billion dollars.  To get the partnership structured correctly, part of our due diligence process should be to ask past Mr. Wilf’s past business partners what they would do if they were us.

For instance, we should consult with Josef Halpern and his sister Ada Reichman, who the court says were defrauded by their business partner Zygi Wilf.  What advice would Halpern and Reichman give Minnesotans on the eve of our business partnership with the Wilfs?

My guess is that Halpern and Reichman wouldn’t be at all focused on ability-to-pay, which seems to be the primary, if not sole, concern of the Minnesota Sports Facitilies Authority (MSFA) and the reporters covering this issue.  Minnesotans seem to be learning the wrong lesson from the New Jersey case.  After all, ability-to-pay falsification wasn’t the flavor of fraud the Wilfs served up to Halpern.  Having money wasn’t the Wilf’s problem in the New Jersey case; sharing it was.

As  Judge Deanne Wilson said, Mr. Wilf’s own testimony showed that he had “reneged” on the agreement with Reichmann and Halpern because he decided that they got “too good a deal.”  The judge also said “I do not believe I have seen one single financial statement that is true and accurate.”

So, what if the Wilf’s decide Minnesotans got “too good a deal?”  Will Minnesotans get the Halpern-Reichman treatment?

Given the Halpern-Reichman experience, I doubt very much that their advice to us would be “make sure they have enough money.”  It would more likely be “protect yourself.”

You can bet that Halpern and Reichman wish they had written a stronger accountability provisions into their contract, and regular audits reinforced with stiff fines for falsification.  You can bet that they wish they had made the Wilfs regularly disclose everything about the operation of the partnership, so that the financial funny business could have been discovered sooner rather than later.

Actually, what Halpern and Reichman probably would advise Minnesotans is to avoid partnering with the Wilf’s at all costs.  But since that doesn’t seem to be in the political winds at this stage, the MSFA should do what the Wilf-defrauded partners would surely do if they had it to do over again:  Don’t trust, verify.

– Loveland

Zygi’s Blind Spot

When you’re a wealthy, secretive, pin stripe wearing New Jersey family who is found guilty of a multi-million dollar racketeering charge, you are fighting a certain stereotype.   Francis Ford Coppola-inspired biases are inevitable.   Many Minnesotans are too polite to say it out loud, but they’re thinking it.

Zygi_Wilf_undisclosedThe Wilf’s have chosen to become very public figures, so they need to be aware of how the news of the last few weeks is effecting their public image.  But instead of mitigating the reputation damage, they are aggravating it.

This week in court, the Wilfs argued that they cannot disclose information about their wealth.  The refusal to disclose is bad enough.  Secrecy fosters suspicion, and plays into the stereotype.  But the rationale they provided for not disclosing is even worse.

“Unfortunately, in the world in which we all live, it is not uncommon to read articles in the press describing plots by malicious individuals targeting well known high net worth individual[s] and their families for physical attack and extortion.”

Did Mario Puzo write that statement for him?  “Attackers?”  “Extorters?”  When scenarios like that are described by a rich guy convicted of racketeering and fraud in New Jersey, many are going to hear Speak Softly Love in the background.  Maybe they shouldn’t, but they will.

Mr. Wilf’s growing reputation problems run the risk of creating business problems.  Those personal seat licenses start to feel like “an offer you can’t refuse.”  The $575 million partnership Minnesota taxpayers are about to enter into with the Wilf’s starts to feel more shady and risky.

To be clear, I obviously don’t wish an attack or extortion plot on Mr. Wilf.  But let’s be real.  It’s hardly a  secret that Mr. Wilf is a very wealthy man.  After all, he flaunts a $19 million apartment on Park Avenue, and it is regularly reported that he owns huge real estate developments and Adrian Peterson.

Therefore, any would-be extortionist or attacker already knows that Mr. Wilf is in possession of a boat load of money.  If the court puts a  number in place of “boat load” it will not further endanger Mr. Wilf.

So, disclose already.  Act like someone who has nothing to hide.  Stand up and proudly say “This is what I have, and this is how I earned it.”  Don Corleone would never say that.   If you don’t want Minnesotans to fall prey to the stereotype and subsequently become wary of entering into a $575 million partnership with you, stop feeding the stereotype and let the sunshine in.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was featured in Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs and MinnPost.

Beyond Ability to Pay, Stadium Authority Needs To Assure Monitoring, Disclosure and Accountability

vikings_stadiumAfter weeks of delay, Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf is finally sharing more financial information to prove he has sufficient financing to pay his share of the new Vikings stadium.  Or, more precisely, Mr. Wilf is proving that he has enough money available, minus whatever he has to pay in a pending fraud and racketeering judgment against him, plus a boat load of financial help from the National Football League, a forthcoming corporate naming rights deal, and Vikings fans’ personal seat license fees.

That’s progress.  Proving ability to pay is a necessary condition of moving forward with the stadium.  But while it’s necessary, it’s far from sufficient. Minnesota taxpayers also need assurances that the pledges Wilf makes in the stadium agreement are kept.

Not “One Single Financial Statement That Is True”

If you think that’s too paranoid, populist or punitive, remember what New Jersey Judge Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson said just a few days ago about Wilf’s behavior in another business partnership (from MPR):

“The bad faith and evil motive were demonstrated in the testimony of Zygi Wilf himself,” Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson said, adding the Wilfs hadn’t fulfilled the “barest minimum” of their pledges as partners in the deal. “I do not believe I have seen one single financial statement that is true and accurate.”

Officially, she ruled that Zygi Wilf, his brother Mark and cousin Leonard committed fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and violated New Jersey’s civil racketeering law.”

“I do not believe I have seen one single financial statement that is true and accurate.”  Gulp.  Judge Wilson’s statement should be disconcerting to anyone thinking about entering into a business partnership with the Wilfs, including the Minnesota taxpayers about to sign onto a half billion dollar partnership with them.

 Ability To Pay Not The Only Safeguard Needed

The Stadium Authority’s oversight must go beyond ability to pay.  It must also look into the veracity of other claims the Vikings owners have made so far, and, just as importantly, set up a tight system for monitoring whether the Wilfs are being honest throughout the life of the contract.

Financial oversight is certainly not my field, but maybe “keeping them honest” means regular audits, with large penalties for financial statement shenanigans.  Maybe it means requiring holding large amounts of the Wilf’s money in escrow until major partnership obligations are fulfilled.   It surely means plenty of public disclosure of all of any accountability-related reports.

 Rush to the Ribbon Cutting

Negotiating such accountability measures may take time, and consequently delay the project.  Though the delay has been caused by the Wilf’s own stonewalling, it would be unfortunate if the Vikings had to play some extra games in the University of Minnesota stadium, and if the delay drove up the cost of the project.  But a delay would not be as unfortunate as  the taxpayers getting stiffed because the stadium authority was in too big of a rush to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The Wilfs and the NFL won’t like the idea of being subject to penalties for bad partnership behavior.  They will send spokesman Lester Bagley out to express outrage and hurt feelings.  This from the folks who are freshly convicted of fraud and racketeering.  This from the  folks who regularly penalize their employees for the high crime of having fun with end zone dances.

Minnesota taxpayers should no longer care about Zygi and Lester’s hurt feelings or delayed ribbon cuttings.   In the wake of Judge Wilson’s startling findings about the Wilf’s past partnership chicanery, “Wilf has the cash” is no longer a good enough assurance for Minnesota taxpayers.  Taxpayers need the Stadium Authority to take their time, and assure taxpayers that “Wilf has the cash, and he’s being regularly monitored and held publicly accountable.”

Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured in Politics in Minnesota‘s Best of the Blogs and MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.

Zygigate Headlines I Hope To Read

WilfMinnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has announced that he refuses to negotiate with stadium officials until they finish looking into his finances.  In the Star Tribune coverage of this development, Team Wilf strikes a rather bratty tone:

The Minnesota Vikings said Friday there is “no point” in negotiating the user and development agreements for a new stadium while the state agency responsible for it is conducting an investigation of the team’s owners.

“Until the authority has the confidence in our organization there’s no point in moving forward with negotiations,” said Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president of public affairs and stadium development.

In an interview with Politics in Minnesota’s Weekly Report, Chair of Metropolitan Sports Facility Authority (MFSA) Michelle Kelm-Helgen sounded baffled by the Vikings ownership’s snit:

In news accounts, they said we were not good partners at this point. Here’s what I would like to say: They’ve been very clear that they will not talk about these agreements anymore until the due diligence is done. I try to interpret what they mean by that, and I’m not sure I fully understand it. Does the fact that we’re doing this due diligence make us bad partners? We need to reassure the people of Minnesota before the agreement is signed and the bonds are sold that there are no further problems or liabilities out there. If that makes us bad partners, I don’t understand that.

Again, all of this comes a few days after Wilf was found guilty of reneging on a multi-million dollar business partnership deal.  Wilf justified these illegal actions by saying he felt another Wilf family member gave the partner too good of a deal, so Zygi took it upon himself to unilaterally right the perceived wrong in a manner that apparently was outside of, let’s just say, generally accepted accounting practices.  The judge in the case said Wilf had an “evil” motive.

At the very moment this judgement came down, Minnesota taxpayers were about to go into a $975 million business partnership with the Wilfs, with taxpayers paying around half of the cost.  And Team Wilf acts as if the Governor and his appointees have no right to ask questions on taxpayers’ behalf?

Just from a pure entertainment standpoint, the headline of news coverage of this latest melodrama could become interesting:

Perp Pride: Convicted Vikings Owner Claims Victimhood?

Lone Wilf Howls From Negotiation Sidelines

 Limber Wilf:  Owner Who Defrauded Partner Calls State A Bad Partner

Zygi A Victim, Or Wilf In Sheep’s Clothing?

Dayton:  No More Wilf Guarding The Chicken Coop

– Loveland

 

Note:  This post also appeared in Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs.