By DON HEINZMAN
The popularity of professional sports, particularly football, ran rough shod over political forces that tried to stop building a third stadium in Minnesota.
The $975 million stadium bill signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton proved once again that the politics and power of sports reign.
This power play by business leaders, strong-arm politics and leadership by Gov. Dayton, show that you cannot underestimate people’s love of sports on any level.
Imagine in fewer than 10 years, this state, known for its conservative ways, has built or approved spending for three new stadiums: Target Field in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus and the Vikings Stadium at the Metrodome site in Minneapolis.
This from a Legislature facing a budget deficit next year of $1.1 billion dollars and owing over $2 billion to the schools – money withheld from the school districts to balance this year’s budget.
In a year when the Legislature and governor were snarling at one another, the stadium bill managed to bring Republicans and Democrats together with the governor to approve what seemed to be the impossible.
In the final tally from both Houses, 59 Democrats and 48 Republicans voted yes and 29 Democrats and 61 Republicans voted no.
Professional football has a hold on Minnesota and the country. It’s the biggest television draw and the Super Bowl draws record numbers of viewers. Football stars are national celebrities.
Pride played a role in the stadium-building decision.
A football team gives the state an identity, like no other, even more than the state that is the home of 19 Fortune 500 companies.
Loyalty to the team was at play in the decision. More than anything, the Vikings are Minnesota’s team.
They sell out just about every game, and they are the talk of the town around the water coolers.
Everyone is a fan and an expert. They have opinions on all aspects of the game. They love the strategy, the different plays and they like to second-guess every one of them.
Some will say fans like the violence and seeing big linemen smash quarterbacks, with or without a bounty.
The economics of having an NFL franchise in Minnesota had something to do with getting the bill passed, even though studies suggest that the Vikings don’t produce a lot of extra money for Main Street.
Let’s face it. Sunday afternoons and the Vikings are a part of Minnesota. We couldn’t give them up, even if we can’t afford the new stadium and the price of a ticket.
Don Heinzman is an editorial writer and columnist with ECM Inc.