Reality Check: ‘Walk Away’ Clause In Vikes Stadium Deal

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Governor Mark Dayton is hoping his stadium blitz at the State Capitol will end with a Vikings vote by Thanksgiving.

But not before the Vikings agree to a series of conditions, including a legal promise not to walk away from the deal.

Why? It’s because the Vikings have rejected multiple stadium proposals in the last decade and walked away from at least one they actually agreed to.

That’s why Dayton’s demanding a ‘walk-away’ clause in writing.

“I made it clear that there cannot be any kind of walkaway rights for anybody in this project,” said Dayton after meeting with Vikings team owner Zygi Wilf on Thursday. “The team, the county and the state. We’re  all going to be in it.”

In fact, the Vikings have rejected at least seven previous stadium proposals since 1999, all of which spent millions in public dollars to develop.

And they actually signed a deal with Anoka County in 2005.

It’s true. In 2005, the team agreed to a $790 million, retractable-roof facility in Blaine.

The Purple scored a stadium, but Anoka County got sacked.

Here’s what you need to know: Taxpayers spent $1 million developing the Anoka site, but the Vikings vamoosed a year later.

The Vikings are now partners with Ramsey County.

A $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills is a deal they can’t walk away from even if they want to.

Here are some sources that were used for this story.

HHH Metrodome info
Metrodome renovation
Vikings, Anoka County Stadium deal
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission
MSFC Meeting info from 2008
Metrodome Reconstruction Analysis

More from Pat Kessler
  • Go Away

    Insanity is still running rampant in St Paul.

  • Ilywatia

    How come the only thing we see on TV is the NFL guy threatening us with the Vikings leaving MN? We vote no and no and no and no so they decide we can’t vote anymore, they’ll decide for us. Who is “THEY” ??? Those morons we elected, that’s who “THEY” is….I don’t work in a state of the art brand new office, please have the state build me one?? DOesn’t matter that I never win anything, I want one.

  • Jim

    High profit- low overhead. That’s what the NFL is all about.

  • Taxpayers wake up before it's too late!

    Dayton has finally lost the last marble he had rolling around between his ears. The majority of the VOTING public don’t want to pay for a new stadium right now – not with a $5 – 6 BILLION state deficit hanging over our heads.

    What do Dayton and Wilf want to do? Force a stadium on an unwilling public, make it so nobody can back out no matter what, and then let this little deficit issue bubble back up to the surface? It may not be in the news lately but the HUGE deficit is not only still there, it gets bigger every day!

    And why is Wilf (with potentially only $250 million in it) and the NFL (with potentially only $150 million in it) DICTATING to Minnesota (with potentially $650+ million in it) how all this will come down? And … the one and only thing all parties have agreed on so far is that if the people are allowed to vote on it, it won’t pass!!! What does THAT tell you?

    I pray to God that the legislature refuses to address the stadium issue in any way, shape, or form unless and until the state of MN has resolved … and paid its way out of … the deficit problem.

  • jon

    Let them leave. Nobody cares for the 8 weekends a year the Vikings play. The Twins stadium changed a neighborhood. * Sundays will not do that. The economic benefit long term is not there. Also, the Vikings are historically horrible.

  • Walter

    I wish Dayton would walk away.

    • just me

      Me too.

  • Kevin

    Thats funny! I want a “walk away” clause in the last Gov election…..

  • hmm

    Who would sign a walk away clause without knowing the details of the deal first?

    • Eric Bell

      Give me a break. You sign a deal with the walk away clause. You know what a clause is, right?

  • Scott Funk

    I would far rather the Vikings just plain got lost. They haven’t been a decent team in years, and their owner is continually trying to suck public money up in a time of recession and a total lack of state dough. And in case you were wondering, Walter, Kevin etc, this nonsense started way before Dayton took office. This “we gotta give the Vikes lots of dough or they’ll leave” has been going on for over a decade, haven’t you noticed?

  • noneedtoknow

    Jon, you and Scott have no Idea what your talking about when it comes to nobody caring if the Vikings Leave and the economic impact a stadium would have on our economy. Look at all the facts and numbers before you open your stupid uneducated mouth again. Not building this stadium would hurt the state way more than if they next time think a little before you talk !!

    • Eric Bell

      What facts and numbers? Sure.. the stadium creates a lot of construction jobs for a couple years, but then you’re left with predominately low wage jobs.. vendors, ticket sales, custodians.. and it costs the taxpayers $500-600 million to get there. Oh.. it does allow a few dozen guys to make millions of dollars, an owner hundreds of millions.
      Don’t you get it? Any other business is not supported to this degree because there’s no emotional connection. I admit, I feel like the MN Vikings are “our” team.. but no, McNabb will happily show up to entertain for $5 mil and to hell with MN after this season (if he’s even around for the end).
      Pro Sports have succeeded in making people care about something just because they slap a city or state name on it. Those aren’t the MN VIkings.. they’re the Ziggy Vikings. Try to keep some perspective.

      • Otto

        each and every player on every team pays taxes for the money they earn for each game they play in Minnesota. That is more tax revenue that we are potentially throwing out the window.

      • Kate

        I’d hawk some beer for the $18 a metrodome vendor gets paid.

        Also, there are taxes on ticket sales, merchandise sales … 60,000 fans a week x 8 home games = 480,000 opportunities for taxes & sales every day. And what if some (not all, certainly) those fans spend the weekend in MN because of the game? Or longer? Then you’ve got hotel rooms, taxes on those, spending at shops & restaurants, taxes on that …

        Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s not “just” Zygi & ‘Queens that will benefit from this stadium. If you’re going to enter this argument, be prepared to look at the big picture.

        P.S. Other businesses HAVE been supported to this degree – remember NWA bailout? How about the Twins stadium? What about all the money poured into St. Paul when we got an NHL franchise back? Or when the T-Wolves arrived … or when the Target Center was renovated … or how about those organizations that would cease to exist if not for state money? (museums, MPR, etc). The VIkings – while certainly more profitable and less educational – are as much of our “culture” in MN as the things that don’t turn a profit and are kept open in the name of cultural improvement.

        • you go girl

          Oh yeah, right, look at all the revenue. What did you say the interest on $650,000,000 is per week?

          The “big picture” looks pretty lousy to me but if you and your pals want to support a new stadium, go ahead and send Zygi your money – just don’t ask for any of mine.

        • The Big Picture

          Yes, let’s do look at the big picture. Again, this from Zimbalist and Noll, authors of the book Sports, Jobs, and Taxes:

          “We and 15 collaborators examine the local economic development argument from all angles: case studies of the effect of specific facilities, as well as comparisons among cities and even neighborhoods that have and have not sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into sports development. In every case, the conclusions are the same. A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment. No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment. No recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenues. Regardless of whether the unit of analysis is a local neighborhood, a city, or an entire metropolitan area, the economic benefits of sports facilities are de minimus.”

          From Robby Robertson in his overview of recent economic impact studies regarding sports facilities:

          “There are also an overwhelming number of academic studies that show little or no economic benefits of sport facility subsidization. Many of these studies point to the substitution effect. The substitution effect argues that “as sport- and stadium-related activities increase, other spending declines because people substitute spending on sports for other spending” (Coats & Humphreys, 2004). Therefore, not all of the spending resulting from the construction of the new facility is new spending. When ignoring the substitution effect, many believe that the economic value of the facility is vastly overstated (Coats & Humphreys, 2004). ”

          The “substitution effect” cited above questions some of the validity of your back of the napkin math: Fans will find other outlets for the money they are spending on the Vikings. You can respond that studies like these cannot necessarily be trusted, that probably there are other studies out there that support your position, etc. Fair enough. But to acknowledge the existence of these works is to acknowledge that there are data-driven and peer reviewed studies whose perspective on the economic impact of sports facilities and sports teams is far more carefully considered than the scribbles on the back of your napkin.

          If it sounds like I’m suggesting you oughtn’t bother making and then sharing these scribbles until you become familiar with these studies, I suppose that’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m puzzled that so many are so quick to opine on matters they know so little about. Again, somewhere along the way, we confused the notion that we all have a right to our own opinion with we all ought to have an opinion on everything. If you don’t know what you’re talking about — and on the subject of the economic impact of sports facilities, I’d wager that you and very few of the rest of us posting here do — then why not acknowledge your ignorance and listen to people who do know what they are talking about?

    • frankie

      @ noneedtoknow. The owner lives out of town, profits from the team are not spent here. The playerrs live out of town during the off season, that money is not spent here. The out of town portion of the Vikings season ticket holders is so miniscule the Vikings do not bring it up in their reasons for a stadium. The money spent on the tickets is discretionary spending.. Spent locally it would mean more money in the community. No stadium, no Vikings, more money for local entertainmment. Perhaps you would like to think more as there is a lot you would not know. oxymoron

  • Dean

    Be careful people of Ramsey county. We the people of Hennepin county got stuck with a sales tax to help pay for the TWINS stadium and we weren’t given the chance or the right to vote. That is what will happen in Ramsey county. So either get on Dayton’s butt or suck it up.

  • Ven

    Q: How many Viking players (and executive staff) actually live in MN? Not a condo, apartment, etc – but here most of the year?
    #1 rule in commercial real estate (look up Milton Friedman), use someone else’s money to build your project. Developers are like insurance companies, if done right they NEVER loose and hedge all risk.

    • Eric Bell

      Exactly! They’re not the MN Vikings.. they’re the Ziggy Vikings made up of pro football players who show up from all around the country to make a team to play another team of guys from around the country.

  • HelpingMN

    As someone who has been unemployed for quite some time now, I wish some of you would see the big picture. What a positive impact a new stadium would have on the economy for Minnesota. It will create more jobs, bring in tax money to help and improve roads, etc. The news just reported how bad the lack of NBA games is hurting downtown (by the millions). Just think about it. I live inl Hennepin County. I don’t mind paying a few dollars for the other stadiums. I don’t even notice it. Stop thinking about “how” the Vikings are doing and take the time to look at the Big Picture and the Future of Minnesota! The Vikings leaving will do nothing but hurt the economy of Minnesota.

    • noneedtoknow

      Exactly my point too.. well said

    • Ven

      Sorry to here about your current situation and hope/pray it changes soon…BUT, this is not about HOW they are doing this season (or any other season). This is about principle and prioritization. 1, Zigs HAS the money – period. He doesn’t NEED for MN to provide the money, he just doesn’t wan to use his money b/c his rationale is that if HE provides YOU/US with entertainment, YOU/US should pay – even when HE reaps the Millions/Billions. The quantitative and qualitative benefits don’t make sense, but Dayton (or other politicians, regardless of what they say) will NOT be the ones to let the Vikes leave. As much as I hate to say this – Zigs knows that even if someone in your temporary situation doesn’t have a job, you’ll spend your money on HIM and feel better if only for a moment watching HIS team play.

    • Eric Bell

      The business hurt by absence of NBA games was the business built after the NBA arrived. People spent their money other places prior to the NBA, probably the same places it’s going now. What kind of workers is the NBA lock-out hurting? Low wage servers and custodians? The bar owners who do a great service to the community by selling booze? So… you think sapping ALL of MN (even more in Ramsey County) for extra taxes to provide a playground for millionaires but providing a few hundred low wages for a couple handful of games a year is worth it?

  • Walter

    A publicly funded stadium destroys more jobs than it creates. The money is extracted from OTHER sectors of the economy. Those sectors become depressed and jobs, good jobs, are lost.

    Only a politician will tell you that you benefit while he’s taking your money.

    And only fools believe him.

  • noneedtoknow

    You also have a point too. But like a comment below ..look how much we are going to lose because of the basketball games that are going to be played because of the lockout..The vikings bring in more revenue than all of our other sports teams combined, A pro football team brings in an estimated 700 million a year to the economy…do the research and Ziggy is contributing the 3rd most money in NFL owner history .

    • Ven

      1. read the fine print – it won’t be a upfront real money contribution. it’ll be a smaller % of ‘real’ cash, then a lot of ‘tax break, incentives, rev sharing, etc over a period of time that will be completely hedged.
      2. Zig is also pushing for a HUGE tract of land that will be developed, on MN’s dime, that HE will control and diverse his revenue stream (toll, parking, commercial prop and rent, etc. This is the SWEETEST deal an owner could imagine – Robert Kraft (NE Pat) saw a similar oppty and made off like a bandit – the main difference? Robert Kraft cares/lives in his team’s hometown, has roots there. He saved the team, and risked his OWN money/wealth to buy them. He also understands he cannot GUT the community that supports his team. Now, ask the same about Zig……………

  • A Vikings Fan but I say no to a stadium

    I am also unemployed, I love football, but honestly why do they need a new stadium?? They have not filled the metrodome in years, they worry that they will never have a superbowl here because the metrodome wont support it, wake up people you have to have a winning team to make it to the superbowl. Where is the state getting this money from??? Are they going to cut our education even more to support a stadium?? Come one people what are our priorities?? Do any of your realize that tuition at a college goes up 7% a semester? That is our governments answer to everything!! Cut the education to help the deficit. Yet we are suppose to support a stadium? I say NO!!! If they want a stadium they pay for it, do fundraisers, cut the players, they are overpaid! Get your money some where else. What are they going to do for the next 5 years if they get their stupid stadium, they still gotta play in the dome and resign a lease, then we have a perfectly good building in Minneapolis on the lightrail not hardly getting used, so there is another waste of tax payers money. I understand they are going to bring some revenue to Arden Hills, but really they already have problems with blackout dates because they cant sell tickets. Focus on getting a winning team and stick with that team for a few years, get your numbers up in tickets and ratings, then try when the economy is better. Now is not the time!!

  • Johnny Beefcake

    Really, people. The answer to this whole mess is so simple: state run casino!! Those who want to support the stadium can choose to do so, and those of you who do not want to support can choose not to go. As far as I’ve seen, the casino plan doesn’t state “when the Vikings stadium is paid for, the casino shuts down” – which means it’s also a source of future revenue for the state. AND – more jobs! (Do you know what card slingers make out at Mystic Lake??)

    Or (and as a lifelong MN and Vikings fan, it pays me to say this), we could explore the Green Bay way of doing things …

  • Johnny Beefcake

    Oops. not “pays me,” but “pains me.” Stupid autocorrect!

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