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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Mackey: If stadium project is delayed, blame everyone but Zygi Wilf

by Phil Mackey

This column is in response to my dear co-host Patrick Reusse, who earlier this week said the potential Vikings stadium snafu is 100% Zygi Wilf’s fault. The following message was not approved by Zygi Wilf.

On Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported that Minnesota Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf agreed to provide analysts with more detailed financial information. This cooperation is in accordance with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority launching an investigation in response to a New Jersey judge ruling two weeks ago that the Wilfs defrauded partners in a real estate deal. The Wilfs could be forced to pay between $50 and $80 million in the lawsuit, according to reports.

Prior to the Stadium Authority’s recent investigation, Governor Mark Dayton also expressed his “deep concern” over the negative result of the lawsuit.

Fair enough. The Wilfs are accused of shady business tactics, and they might lose a lot of money as a result (Zygi’s net worth is anywhere between $300 million and $1.3 billion, based on various reports, which is a pretty wide gap, but I digress).

It only makes sense to look into this thoroughly, regardless of whether or not the investigation delays the entire project… right?

That’s where I have a problem.

Every step of the way, Dayton, legislators and even the Stadium Authority have expressed shock at things that aren’t shocking.

“Wait, what?! The Wilfs lost a lawsuit??”

Well, yeah. The lawsuit has been ongoing for 20 years. TWENTY YEARS. If there was even a small chance the Wilfs could lose that lawsuit, wouldn’t it have made sense for all parties involved to do a thorough financial background check BEFORE agreeing to terms on a $1 billion project?

Of course, Zygi won’t be using much of his own money to pay for the project anyway. He’ll mostly use money from the NFL, from sponsorships and Personal Seat Licenses.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! This stadium is going to cost $1 billion?!”

Well… Yeah. Unless someone can come up with a viable Plan B. The last three agreed-upon stadium projects have cost $987 million (49ers), $1.6 billion (Giants/Jets) and $1.2 billion (Cowboys).

Now, all three of those stadiums were (or will be) financed largely with private money. In fact, the Giants’ new stadium will be entirely privately financed. The public provided $444 million (37%) of the new stadium in Dallas, and $114 million (12%) of the future new stadium in San Francisco.

$1 billion is the going rate for a new stadium. It’s not shocking. But had legislators done their homework – and stood their ground – they could have come up with a viable Plan B to Wilf’s $1 billion palace that either A.) cost less, or B.) included a lower public financing rate.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! You’re planning on implementing Personal Seat Licenses?! WHOA!”

They’ve been commonplace in every new NFL stadium for more than a decade. So, yes.

In fact, the Pittsburgh Steelers began implementing Personal Seat Licenses for upper-deck seats in 2002. The Steelers actually funded 1/3 of their stadium payment obligation through PSLs.

Do PSLs gouge fans? Yes. Do most NFL teams implement them? Yes. It’s called “the free market.”

If I can sell Pepsi out of a vending machine for $1.50 and people will buy it, why would I sell it for $0.75 instead?

To act shocked, as Dayton did, is ludicrous. It’s grandstanding. And it might even show an incredible lack of due diligence before agreeing to the deal.

In the meantime, while we’re investigating whether Zygi has enough money to pay for his share of the new stadium, electronic pull tabs are collecting dust at all 12 bars that actually use them.

More solid due diligence.

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