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Minnesota, Plundered by Vikings


Wilf claimed that he couldn’t afford more, but he wouldn’t release the financial details of his real estate empire. A Minnesota state investigation, undertaken after a New Jersey judge ruled that the Wilf family had defrauded real estate partners in a ...


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City Journal is a publication of Manhattan Institute Search search Experts Heather Mac Donald Topics Health Care Publications Health in New York Heat Infrastructure Heart of US Economics On the Ground Health in New York Heat Infrastructure Heart of US Economics Projects Health in New York Heat Infrastructure Heart of US Economics Trending The Magazine TopicsArts & Culture California Cities Economy, Finance, Budgets Education Healthcare Infrastructure & Energy New York Politics & Law Public Safety Technology & Innovation The Social Order Other Texas Contributors Books Multimedia All Publications About Praise Subscribe City Journal search Close Nav Search Close Search search Share this article on Facebook Twitter Google Plus Email Close Minnesota, Plundered by Vikings Share eye on the news Minnesota, Plundered by Vikings After state government handed the NFL team a sweetheart package of taxpayer subsidies, Minneapolis became a natural choice to host a Super Bowl. Steven Malanga January 29, 2018 Economy, finance, and budgets The National Football League faced an array of problems this yearWidespread player protests of the national anthem, coupled with concerns about the toll the game takes on athletes’ health, helped to reduce TV audiences for the second straight seasonBut the Super Bowl party beginning in Minneapolis demonstrates that even one of the country’s most left-leaning cities is not immune to the NFL’s continuing allure. Fans of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will travel to the frigid northern city this week because the NFL granted a Super Bowl to Minnesota as a reward for stepping up with more than half a billion dollars in subsidies for the home-state Vikings’ U.SBank Stadium, which opened in 2016For a city whose mayor recently described it as a “shining beacon of progressive light and accomplishment,” this is some feat, and a reminder that the NFL, whatever its troubles, maintains a firm hold on the taxpayer’s purse in many places. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, a New Jersey real estate developer, began pushing for a new stadium soon after purchasing the team in 2005His supplications became more earnest after the roof of the Vikings’ old home, the Metrodome, collapsed in December 2010Wilf originally proposed contributing just one quarter of the new stadium’s $1 billion cost, a spectacularly low-ball offer in an era when backlash against stadium subsidies for professional teams increasingly force owners to pony up a bigger share of construction costsWilf claimed that he couldn’t afford more, but he wouldn’t release the financial details of his real estate empireA Minnesota state investigation, undertaken after a New Jersey judge ruled that the Wilf family had defrauded real estate partners in a local project and had to pay them $84.5 million, determined that the family could afford to pay up to $500 million for the stadium. Even after Wilf upped his offer, the road to the stadium deal was paved with controversyMinnesota financed a portion of its share of the costs by introducing a state-licensed electronic-gambling game to generate construction revenues, but the game proved a clunker with local residents; to fill the financing hole, Minnesota drew on revenues from its tobacco tax and increased corporate taxesThen Wilf announced that he’d help finance his part of the deal by charging season ticketholders a seat license fee—prompting a threat from Minnesota governor Mark Dayton to pull government financingDayton soon changed his tune, explaining that sports financing has its own ineffable logic“I’m not one to defend the economics of professional sports,” he said“Any deal you make in that world doesn’t make sense from the way the rest of us look at it.” Though it lent its balance sheet to the deal, the city of Minneapolis, according to critics—including one former city councilman—has been “hosed” by the VikingsThe city officially contributed $150 million to stadium construction, but these observers contend that that figure doesn’t include expensive infrastructure improvements that Minneapolis was forced to makeAs part of the stadium package, Minneapolis also agreed to send $7.5 million a year in operating subsidies to the authority running the facility, which amounts to $225 million over the course of the dealCity taxpayers also apparently remain on the hook for any shortfalls in the revenues that back the bonds used to build the surrounding infrastructureResidents understand little of this financing because, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune noted, the stadium deal “was as transparent as the Berlin wall.” Of course, the stadium has been a boon for the Vikings ownershipThe Vikings are worth an estimated $2.4 billion, and the new stadium has increased the net worth of Wilf’s business empire by $200 million, according to estimates. What all of this is worth to Minneapolis is another matterThe city’s host committee estimates that the Super Bowl will generate $338 million in economic activity, but some economists say that that figure is wildly inflatedThe city is projecting, for instance, that some 1 million people will show up for Super Bowl-related events—but it turns out that only about 125,000 of them will be from out of townThe rest are locals who will take the opportunity to spend time (and maybe dollars) on Super Bowl events that they might otherwise be spending somewhere else in greater MinneapolisThis doesn’t represent genuine “new” spending, in other words, and it won’t begin to offset the more than half a billion dollars that the public has shelled out for U.SBank Stadium. Local criticism of the deal might have been muted had the Vikings become the first team ever to play in a Super Bowl hosted in their own stadiumThat dream ended when the Eagles knocked them off in the NFC conference championship gameNow Minneapolis must suffer the indignity of welcoming the league’s most thuggish fans, as the Eagles arrive to compete for the biggest prize in American sportsLocals can only hope that Tom Brady and the Pats knock off PhillyEven that happy conclusion will be cold comfort for the financial sacking Minneapolis has endured at the hands of the NFL and the Vikings. Steven Malanga is the senior editor of City Journal, the George MYeager Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the author of Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer. Photo: Darb02 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google Plus Email Print Sign up for Email Alerts More from Steven Malanga from the magazine When Family Values Pay Steven Malanga The success of the Hallmark channels is a counter-narrative to Hollywood’s grim trend. eye on the news Andrew Cuomo, Apostle of Progressivism Steven Malanga New York’s governor characterizes success as a list of new laws and programs, regardless of their results. eye on the news Pillars of SALT Steven Malanga Residents of high-tax states are petrified by the GOP tax plan, thanks to misleading press coverage. More on Economy, finance, and budgets eye on the news New York’s SALT Substitute EJMcMahon Anxious to retain one-percenters, Governor Cuomo rehearses some clumsy tax solutions. eye on the news New Jersey’s Tired Tax Tricks James Piereson, Naomi Schaefer Riley In the Garden State, the promise that higher income taxes will close the fiscal gap never pans out. from the magazine Growth, Not Equality Amity Shlaes American history shows that expanding the economy benefits everyone. Up Next eye on the news Andrew Cuomo, Apostle of Progressivism New York’s governor characterizes success as a list of new laws and programs, regardless of their results. Steven Malanga January 5, 2018 Politics and law, New York City Journal A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian CAnderson. The Magazine Books Multimedia All Publications Subscribe About Praise Contact Advertise Privacy Policy TopicsArts & Culture California Cities Economy, Finance, Budgets Education Healthcare Infrastructure & Energy New York Politics & Law Public Safety Technology & Innovation Texas Other ContributorsBrian CAnderson Seth Barron Michael Knox Beran Claire Berlinski Paul Beston Ben Boychuk Theodore Dalrymple Nicole Gelinas Edward LGlaeser Victor Davis Hanson Howard Husock Kay SHymowitz Stefan Kanfer Andrew Klavan Joel Kotkin John Leo Heather Mac Donald Myron Magnet Steven Malanga John OMcGinnis Bob McManus Judith Miller Peter Reinharz Aaron MRenn Fred Siegel Guy Sorman Harry Stein John Tierney Michael JTotten Mene Ukueberuwa Adam White 52 Vanderbilt AvenueNew York, NY 10017 (212) 599-7000 City Journal on Facebook City Journal on Twitter City Journal on Google Plus City Journal on YouTube City Journal on Instagram City Journal RSS

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