Monday, December 14, 2009

Wilf the Weasel?

When Zygi Wilf purchased the Minnesota Vikings from Red McCombs in 2005, he quickly became the mustachioed savior of the most beloved franchise in Minnesota. Four years later, with Wilf demanding a new stadium, and the threat of relocation looming, the love has faded. And fast.

The outrage has been palpable the last few weeks, with angry fans lighting up the internet and airwaves with angry tweets, blog posts, and radio call-ins. The public has spoken: Wilf’s a weasel.

While it is easy to sit back and lament the potential relocation of the Vikings, a black cloud over an otherwise successful season, the more realistic fan would look at the issue from both sides.

Is it fair to argue that Wilf shouldn’t be making such outrages demands in such a, let’s call it, “economically questionable” time? Of course. But shouldn’t fans be ostracizing public officials, as well, for refusing to even broach the subject?

The fact of the matter is, the Metrodome is aging, and aging quickly. The Vikings need a new facility to compete with the revenues of other NFL franchises. (Even the Lions have a state-of-the-art facility, after all.)

I assume most lawmakers would acknowledge losing the Vikings would be a giant blow to the state of Minnesota, not only from the sports fan’s perspective, but an economic perspective as well.

So why is it that they refuse to even answer questions regarding a new stadium?

Maybe the timing is bad, but there are two sides to the stadium construction coin. Yes, approving a stadium would obviously require approving funds in a downtrodden Minnesota market, but just the mere process of building the stadium would create jobs. Between the designing, construction, and everything else that goes into planning and building a professional sports stadium, and coupled with the revenues a professional sports franchise brings to local bars, restaurants, hotels, etc., the Twin Cities would certainly see a return on its investment.

From Wilf’s perspective, threatening to relocate a franchise that, for better or worse, is an important part of Minnesota’s identity is good business. He holds the trump card because he knows Minnesota can’t afford to lose the Vikings, but if the state wants to keep the team, they have to build Wilf’s stadium.

Wilf's stubbornness is what has created the public outcry. People want to believe in a sense of loyalty from their sports team, and Wilf is showing next-to-none towards Minnesotans. But the fact is, Wilf isn’t in the business of loyalty. He is in the business of business. Wilf’s job is to run the Vikings to the best of his ability, and turn the most profit at the end the year. Maximum profit is the goal for any business owner, and Wilf is no different.

While the Vikings franchise has obviously proven it can be a moneymaker in Minnesota, the Metrodome has proven it is no longer a viable NFL stadium. The seats are cramped, the concourse is cramped, the food selection is poor at best, and the bathrooms are urine troughed nightmares. There is almost nothing good about the Metrodome.

To argue the Vikings should continue to play in a second rate stadium simply because the team “belongs” in Minnesota, is asinine. It is time for a new facility, and that is what Wilf is trying to procure.

We all obviously want the Vikings to stay in Minnesota. But while we all believe the Vikings truly do “belong” in Minnesota, that isn’t enough to keep the around. Something tangible needs to be done.

Many people ask, “Why now?” With the state facing a large deficit and massive budget cuts, why ask for a publicly funded facility now?

The answer, from Wilf, would be, “If not now, when?”

The Vikings lease in the Metrodome is up after 2011, coupled with the very real threat of a lockout after the 2010 season. The Vikings obviously want some resolution with so much upcoming uncertainty.

No matter how much public outcry persists, Wilf isn’t going to back down. And he shouldn’t. With so much leverage on his side, Wilf is going to get what he wants.

Whether he gets it here, or in Los Angeles, remains to be seen.

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