Monday, February 16, 2009

The Vikings May Leave Minnesota

The Vikings shop, slop, hop and pop for a new stadium – or else!
by Charlie Leck

A friend of mine likes to describe my blog as eclectic. Well, yesterday I gave you a definition of God. Two days ago I let you peek at my Valentine’s Day poem to my wife. Today we turn to the Minnesota Vikings and their need for a billion dollar stadium. Is that eclectic?

The front page headline in last Thursday's local newspaper was: STATE’S RED INK: $7 BILLION? The headline in the sport section declared that the “Vikings’ stadium frustration rises to surface!” An interview with the Vikings' spokesman made the threat to leave town very clear: "...we're about out of time!"
How to solve the stadium crisis, mid the financial crisis!
This town (Minneapolis) used to be famous for its deal makers. Oh my, we had some glorious big-hitters in the business community up here. When there was a major community need, they got things done and done well.

One has only to look at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) to see evidence of this. The Dayton brothers (fore-fathers of the Target Corp) stepped up big on that one. They made sure that we had a first-class, big-league, state-of-the-art (if you’ll forgive the pun) art museum.

Then, only 10 minutes away, you can visit the Walker Art Museum and the fantastic sculpture gardens right next-door. This is our town’s modern, or contemporary, art museum. It’s special and spectacular. Give thanks to the leadership of the Crosby family (General Mills) and many of their friends on that one

Minneapolis and Minnesota go Big League
The Minnesota Twins major league baseball team started play in Minnesota in 1961. Our town and state were great before that and it was wonderful to live and work here, but having a major league baseball team put us on the map. Having major league baseball here also gave our economy a big, big boost. Don’t doubt that for a second.

John Cowles Sr. was at the center of bringing baseball here. He was the owner/publisher of the two Minneapolis newspapers at that time (morning and afternoon). Charlie Johnson, a writer for the newspapers, was the spokesman for the people who plotted and toiled to get the Washington Senators to move to Minnesota to become the Twins. Gerry Moore was the executive of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce and he put the full force of the chamber behind the effort to get baseball here. There were some powerful people in the Chamber, including my late father-in-law, Lyman Wakefield, Jr., who worked tirelessly to get Major League Baseball to come here. Billy Boyer was a powerful downtown businessman and he poured energy into the effort. So did our wonderful neighbor out here in Independence, Wheelock Whitney. Wheelock is as smooth as whipped cream and he impressed everyone in baseball who met him.

A medical doctor at the Mayo Clinic was also a surprising player in the deal. Minnesota was one vote short of getting the Senators to move here. A couple of the Yankee bosses were his patients. They planned on voting against the Twins. On the day a vote was to be cast, Doctor Bayrd Horton called his patients and told them how important it was for Minnesota to get baseball here. The Yankee vote came in for Minnesota that day.

On the 31st of October in 1960, Calvin Griffith, the owner of the Washington Senators, announced that he was moving his team to Minnesota. I remember Lyman, Anne’s father, telling us about the party. It was non-stop – a big time celebration.

I could give you a list of a dozen community leaders who poured efforts in making that day happen; however, that’s not the point here. Here’s the real point!

The Vikings are getting ready to pack up and leave!
Think I’m kidding? Then you’re a sucker, pal! They’ll play out their lease here – through 2011 (that’s 3 seasons) and then they’re gone – moving into a spectacular billion dollar stadium in Los Angeles.

Does it matter?
This is the crucial question that community leaders have got to consider. Is it important – no, is it vital – that our state and community has NFL football? Will our community be lessened if they leave? Will our economy suffer? Will anything beyond our image be damaged?

The crucial question is not the ailing economy. The real question is this: Are the Vikings worth a billion dollars to the state and community? That’s what it is going to cost to keep them here.

Why aren’t we hearing from the Greater Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce on this one? Where are the big time business leaders like we had in the past? They’re out there, but they’re not being heard. Perhaps they’re silent because they’ve answered that vital question already – calculating that the Vikings are not worth the money and the effort to keep them?

The Vikes have made it clear. They must have a new stadium – a billion dollar stadium. They’ll throw in a quarter of that amount. Add some infrastructure costs into the mix and you’ve got a billion dollar public investment that will be required to keep big-time football in the state.

Wheelock Whitney, of all those great community leaders I mentioned above, is still around and active and vocal. I’d like to hear Wheelock’s opinion about this. I trust his reasoning powers a great deal and no one I know loves this town any more than he does. Then I’d ask him if we still have the kind of community leaders who can step up and make it happen if the feeling is that the Vikings must stay in Minnesota.

As for Wheelock, he the great rock beneath of the Metropolitian Community College in Minneapolis. He's been responsible for some wonderful developments on that campus.

Where are the Pohlads on this stadium issue (the Twins owners)? How about Glen Taylor (the Timberwolves owner)? Where are Dick Kovacevich (Wells Fargo) and Lynn Nagorske (TCF) on this issue? What about Marilyn Carlson Nelson (Carlson Companies)? Pat Ryan (Ryan Companies)? Ed Philips (Philips Beverage)? Steve Sanger (General Mills)? Gregg Steinhafel (Target)? Warren Stanley (Cargill)?

What about 3M, Medtronic, Xcel Energy, United Health, Best Buy and SuperValu?

Again, Wheelock, have we got the kind of energetic community leaders who could keep the Vikings here if we determine that the team is valuable to us as a state?

Where does former governor Arne Carlson stand on this one?

Maybe this vital question has already been asked and answered by the hot-shot community leaders and that’s why there is only silence. "Let them go! It just isn't worth the price!"

These are tough times to raise a billion dollars and this is a tough issue; yet, the issue needs leadership and it doesn’t appear that anyone is stepping up to the plate.

Again, the first question is this: Are the Vikings worth an investment of a billion dollars to keep them here?

If the answer is yes, these great business and community leaders must step forward and lay out a plan to get that stadium built. We've certainly seen that there isn't any leadership coming from the Governor's office.

Are the Vikings a part of our future or just a simple story from the past?

1 comment:

  1. It's Marilyn, not Nancy - Marilyn Carlson Nelson