By Jim Souhan, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
MINNEAPOLIS — Help me, Vikings fans. I’m not sure where to stand in the debate between Gov. Mark Dayton and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.
One guy wants to gouge you. The other wants to protect you.
One guy is Mr. Potter. The other is George Bailey.
One guy is a walking “convenience” fee. The other is a Groupon.
Do I side with the guy who wants you to buy a Personal Seat License, otherwise known as That Thing They Made Up To Charge You More Money For That Thing They Were Already Charging You Money For, or the guy who thinks that when you buy an expensive ticket for a seat in a stadium, you shouldn’t also have to buy a expensive ticket to have the right to buy an expensive ticket for a seat in a stadium?
Do I side with the billionaire owner who got a sweetheart deal for a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis and who now wants to charge fans thousands of excess dollars so he won’t wind up investing his personal fortune in a venture that will make him even richer? Or the public servant who thinks that’s wrong?
Dayton is pro-stadium for good reason. Cities are buildings. The nicer we can make the buildings that the public most often uses, the nicer our cities will be. No stadium deals are perfect, but Target Field and Xcel Energy Center are beautiful places. They are essential to our cities remaining places where people want to live and socialize.
Dayton fought for the Vikings stadium for all the right reasons, and now he is opposing Wilf for all of the right reasons.
You can argue that Dayton could have foreseen this development, that he is now arguing against the language of the very deal he signed. That’s true.
This is how political horse-trading works, when it actually works. Dayton made the deal he needed to make at the time to get the stadium passed. Now he’s acting as an advocate for non-rich Minnesotans as the Wilfs survey fans about their willingness to pay for PSLs all over the stadium. Dayton is doing his job.
It’s one thing to overcharge rich people in suites or the elite sections. They can afford it. It’s another to overcharge people all over the stadium to avoid putting your own money into the deal.
Wilf can justify that because of the language of the agreement. That doesn’t make it right.
Wilf should invest a chunk of his own money. The Pohlads have spent hundreds of millions of their own money on Target Field. Just because the stadium bill left Wilf with methods by which he can shift the financial burden to the average fan doesn’t mean he should use them.
Wilf should think ahead. He shouldn’t impose a fee that will dissuade fans from attending games, or that will ruin his reputation with a fan base that has grown justifiably fond of him.
The NFL marketing department’s greatest fear is not concussions. It is the couch.
Every year, the NFL on TV becomes a bigger lure, while the game-day experience in the stadium remains a test of fan loyalty.
Every year, fans must compare sitting on a comfortable couch with friends and family, drinking cheap beer, and being charged zero dollars to park in their own driveway with: Paying high prices for tickets, beer, parking and food for the privilege of fighting traffic and crowds while being crammed into a child-sized seat while the guy next to them turns into Nick Nolte’s DUI mug shot.
PSLs add insult to extortion.
It’s amazing, what fans will pay and endure for the experience of watching an event that might break their hearts. Zygi shouldn’t further test their loyalty. He shouldn’t taint the legislative victory Dayton helped him attain by behaving like the greedy billionaire his opponents accused him of being all along.
You got a good deal, Mr. Wilf. Dayton’s right. It’s time for you to ante up.