Vikings, Legislature finally cross finish line
Anyone who's ever run a marathon — or watched a loved one do so — knows that the final miles aren't terribly pretty, especially for first-timers. Such runners are tired and hurting, and more than a few are wondering what they were thinking when they set out on such an endeavor.
Then, when they finally cross the finish line, their mixture of relief, jubilation and disbelief that it's really over are evident on their faces.
We don't know if Sen. Julie Rosen is a runner, but the Republican from Fairmont clearly knows something about completing a long, hard race. Ditto for Lester Bagley, the Minnesota Vikings Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development, who has been franchise's point man for most of the decade-long effort to build a new stadium and keep the team in Minnesota.
Rosen and Bagley are just two of a large number of people who deserve credit for making this deal happen. Gov. Dayton is on that list, having made the stadium one of his top priorities and refusing to let it become encumbered with other issues, such as tax cuts and the bonding bill. Also deserving kudos is Rep. John Kriesel, a double-amputee war hero who, unfortunately, is leaving the Legislature after just one term in which he distinguished himself as a truly compassionate conservative and a diehard Vikings fan. (He is moving on to even more important work, as Anoka County's new director of Veterans Services.)
And, of course, the Wilf family showed tremendous patience during this entire process, enduring countless wrong turns, false starts and detours, yet never playing their ultimate trump card — an outright threat to leave Minnesota. Amid the uncertainty, they've never hesitated to spend money on top talent as they try to bring a championship to Minnesota. That includes the Legislature's last-second demand that they kick in an extra $50 million for a stadium that they will use just 10 times per year.
Keep that in mind when you hear people blasting the idea that Minnesota is spending taxpayer dollars on "a stadium for billionaires." The Vikings won't own the new stadium. They'll get to use it just 10 days per year for 30 years, but will pay $477 million to build it. We're convinced that this is a good deal for the Wilfs, the Vikings, their fans, the state and indeed the entire Upper Midwest.
Regardless of whether you're a football fan or not, you can't deny that the Vikings are part of our state's identity. If history is any indication, we'd have experienced plenty of remorse and second thoughts if the state's most popular sports team had sought greener pastures.
Losing the Lakers hurt. Losing the North Stars felt like a betrayal. But Minnesota without the Vikings?
We'd rather not think about that. And we won't have to — not for at least thirty years.