The no-threat threat
As of yesterday’s Minnesota legislature-approved stadium plan for the Vikings, Minnesotans have approved some $1.85 billion in new venues since 2005-06. Only a year ago it was believed that the Vikings drew the short straw as the University of Minnesota’s football program (TCF Bank Stadium) and the Minnesota Twins (Target Field) got funding before the recession kicked in. Maybe it’s a sign of a recovering economy, or merely another successful negotiating session by the NFL. In any case, from the looks of things the Vikings will be in Minneapolis for decades to come.
Not that it wasn’t without some 11th-hour heartache. As the plan stalled in the legislature, Vikings owner Zygi fueled up the jet and took a meeting in Los Angeles, which was exactly the panic-induced catalyst the issue needed to move forward.
Three venues. $1.8 billion and counting. All three took enormous amounts of horse-trading in the legislature, and some politically iffy maneuvering to avoid public votes. Ugly as it was, it got done. That’s a major difference from how things are done in California, which is to say that here things are either done relative smoothly or not at all.
The Vikings’ staying leaves four teams with some kind of stadium project on the table:
- Buffalo. No new stadium is being requested at this point, only a $200 million renovation to Ralph Wilson Stadium. Results from a recent phone poll suggest that the Bills should by ponying up a major share of the cost, which is permissible within the NFL’s new G-4 program. A study being readied by Populous which explains the costs and options in detail is due out later this year.
- Jacksonville. With new ownership, talk of stadium changes or a new stadium has ceased. It’s not hard to see it ramp up again after the honeymoon period ends, probably after the 2012 season.
- San Diego. The Chargers have absolutely nothing going on regarding a new stadium anywhere in the metro area. The region is immersed in grief over the tragic death of Junior Seau, and it’s going to take a while to recover. A capacity crowd may show up today at Qualcomm Stadium to honor former Charger great. As this subsides, the drama over what the Spanos family will or could do with the team will start up again.
- Oakland. The Coliseum City study continues for now, and Mark Davis has indicated that he’d like for Dublin to be a backup plan, which is not a bad idea if Dublin is interested – which is questionable at this point. Past talk about the Raiders running out of money appears to have died down. Al Davis was always good about getting the best lawyers working for him, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that he would have a well-conceived succession and estate plan. After all, if there’s one thing Davis had in spades, it’s foresight.
- St. Louis. The Rams have released a 15-item list of upgrades that will be required to put Edward Jones Dome in the “first tier” of NFL stadia, per their lease. The upgrade list, whose price tag could run $200-450 million, is expected to be released Monday. The onerous lease terms have the City by the short hairs, though it’s expected that the NFL will provide some G-4 funds to the Rams to sugarcoat the deal. At the top of the list is a retractable roof. To accomplish that goal, St. Louis should look to the Vancouver’s BC Place renovation project, which included both a novel retractable roof and a curtaining system for CFL and MLS games, plus a Cowboys Stadium-like centerhung scoreboard. The price for that project was $563 million, though it should be noted that as an older venue BC Place required far greater scope of work, especially because it was done in two phases sandwiching the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Of the four teams in “flux”, only St. Louis is in any kind of advanced stage of negotiations. Even then there’s still time as their window to vacate doesn’t open until 2015. The Raiders could leave after 2013, and I expect that they’ll use Santa Clara, Dublin, and maybe LA as leverage against Oakland/Alameda County to get the concessions they’re looking for, even if it doesn’t make any sense from the NFL’s perspective (loaning $400 million for two Bay Area stadia).
In other words, there are no immediate crises. One or two are somewhat looming. None of these situations requires the kind of effort that was made for the Vikings. The team’s lease expired after the 2011 season, creating a crisis scenario that propelled talks. As the other teams’ scenarios advance in the next year or so, we can expect to see more action on their plans.