Text for Email to MN Legislature, October 30, 2001
(Sent to MN legislature, House Speaker, Steve Sviggum and Senate President Roger Moe and others: Roy Terwilliger, Larry Fitzgerald, John Marty, David Jennings, Otis Courtney, Sarah Psick, Victor Moore, Tom Hanson)
In the last two weeks, regarding Minnesotas teams, Ive gone from EXCITED (because of the web site I was developing that would assist you), to SAD (reading Weiners book "Stadium Games" that suggests the Vikings have been picked to kicked out of town) to MOURNFUL (when I read Sid Hartmans Halloween scare story of the Twins this morning which confirms the Vikings are to be gone). And if the scare doesnt work, then within two years Minnesota will return to the 1950s, but this time without championship teams, but with subsidized almost minor league level teams: NBA, NHL, and will definitely lose the coveted designation of "big league." As Weiner states it in his book, Minnesota will be, for a long time to come, merely bush league.
MY EXCITEMENT was caused by the positive effect I felt my new web site would be to help you with the Stadium study. ALL of the documents I have sent to you are now online, on my web site that went on-line over the weekend: www.peterjessen-gpa.com. All the documents, and even, with one exception, all of the long form versions of the Appendices summarized in the Generic Model (http://www.peterjessen-gpa.com/pages/generic.html ) I sent to you, are there. Recall what I wrote in my August 10, 2001 letter to you (http://www.peterjessen-gpa.com/pages/mn.html )where I said, "Here is the basic idea: if the various main stakeholder groups in Minnesota (teams and their owners, legislators and the jurisdictions, stadiums and their managers, corporations and university, urban/suburban/rural, white and black) can see that they are all partners in the sports-entertainment industry, no one will lose and all will be winners. If each can help the other get what they need and what they want, all will get what they need and want. That is always at the heart of any great enterprise that involves great institutions and individuals. The 10 models and the six attachments provide the building blocks of everything that is needed to start. I thought, wow! Now they can email the pieces that they find helpful, or the parts of them, without having to copy and staple and mail, etc., and maybe it will help them offset the conclusion of the Weiner book.
MY SADNESS was caused by reading a book I picked up two weeks ago: Star Tribune writer Jay Weiners Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles (you can read a summary (http://www.sportsjones.com/sj/226.shtml ). Several Minnesota THEMES became apparent: (1) the desire of "controlling" things of those with the fortunes to do so, (2) the "parochialism" of clinging to a 1950s fantasy baseball view of reality, (3) a denial of succession of the 1950s generation to their sons, letting them have control, who I would wager would much rather attend an NFL Vikings game than a MLB Twins game, (4) the pettiness of "payback" to get even for sleights real and imagined, (5) the "out of touchness" of believing professional baseball is the sport of choice when in reality it is professional football, (6) the myopia of both the legislature and the former owners, those before Red McCombs, of not wanting to see how stadiums could be built for all the teams and provide unique and wonderful economic stimulus and jobs for the region, as well as housing and other positive contributions to Minnesotas economic well being for the community, and (7) the obvious "understanding" in Weiners book that the Vikings have drawn the short straw, that they have to go because the "understanding" says the Twin Cities cannot support four teams (EVEN THOUGH as we speak they are doing so anyway). The book makes clear that with Minneapolis subsidizing the Timberwolves arena and St. Paul subsidizing the Wild arena, that makes the "odd man out" to be the Vikings, because of the obvious "hallowed sanctity" with which these old rich guys hold baseball, which means the Vikings must be sacrificed on the altar of their 1950s dream and the altar of the narrow vision that sees the cities as a "three horse town" instead of a full team of four. The book makes it clear that the Vikings have to go. It is why the former owners sold to an out of town guy and why they refused to sell to the local guy. They will not get the blame. They will not be the scapegoats. The new owner will. Well, by golly, I thought, despite Weiners book, there is still a chance. Ill get my web site up and enjoin the battle, make a difference, and help the push that enables all the teams to stay.
MY MOURNING began when I read the Halloween scare story of Sid Hartman in todays Star Tribune. Otis called me to alert me of the story. I pulled it up and sure enough, there it was: (http://www.startribune.com/stories/503/795621.html )"Twins Pohlad ready for contraction," in which Sid writes of tears coming to his eyes regarding the thought of Minnesota losing the Twins. This is another round out of Weiners book (see chapter 11). The deal is fake. It is a Halloween story, hiding the real horror: the Vikings being kicked out of town because the old "fathers" want the Twins and havent faith enough in the Twin Cities and the obvious significant growth that will be taking place. Sids story made him cry for the Twins. It made me cry for the Vikings. It is obvious from Sids article that the deal is done: Vikings go, Twins stay. I just cant figure out just who all are in on this latest Twins "conspiracy" the term Weiner uses of the one hatched in Arne Carlsons Governors office to get the legislature to fund a stadium for the Twins (p. 386: "What was the most galling was that the states leaders-especially Governor Carlson, his chief of staff Omann, and his sports ambassador Savelkoulwere coconspirators. They created the atmosphere to force the legislature to vote for a stadium," and again, p. 409: "But the real conspiracy to stick up Minnesotas voters was not hatched in a bankers tower in downtown Minneapolis . No, it was born in the hallowed offices of the governor of the state of Minnesota." Note what is missing in both: no mention of the Vikings. That is another almost "conspiracy" - the "conspiracy of silence" about the Vikings reported by local writers Kevin Seifert and Larry Fitzgerald (http://www.peterjessen-gpa.com/pages/mn.html#Three). Indeed, in my August 10, 2001 letter to you, I wrote that if something wasnt done quickly, the scenario would unfold that the Vikings would be pushed out of town, the Twins would get a renovated Metrodome, and the Gophers would be the ones winding up with a new stadium. Two pieces confirm this view in my mind, hence my tears for the Vikings: (1) the Weiner book, and (2) todays Halloween scare piece of Sid. When Otis and I submitted our proposal to the Vikings two summers ago, I was very clear: there was no way the University would go along with a shared stadium.
Why a scare piece? Because, in the words of a recent NYT article, one of the consequences of 9/11 were these words: "Public funds for new ballparks for the Yankees and Mets? Fuggedaboutit."
The same is true of Minnesota: public funds for the new ballparks for the Twins and Vikings? Fuggedaboutit." UNLESS you can frighten everyone, as Sid has done. But it is another ghost story, just like with Beaver and the Twins in Weiners book (chapter 11). And, with every other corporation and industry lining up to the Congress and state legislatures for handouts, support, subsidies (call them what you will) as a result of 9/11, this is a chance to try to slip one more through. And then 9/11 will have another casualty, the Vikings. When will "the powers at be" face what they dont want to face: their beloved Twins are a baseball team in a football town.
It should be noted that Jay Weiner shows in his book how often the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press carry the water for the "powers" regarding what they want, often without realizing it. Sids article is just another one of the same. The water they should be carrying is that of the fans, who want the Vikings. The information, presented "neutrally," without taking sides, actually appears as if it has already been decided that the Vikings will move, as it is never reported that anyone is doing anything to prevent it nor protesting it. All the action is for the Twins.
It should also be noted that the furor Weiner talks about regarding Red McCombs famous "Dunkers Speech" on August 31, 1999, was about remarks that the Vikings would not be playing in the Metrodome in 5 years, because if it didnt have a new stadium by then, the team could not be competitive. However, he made the same case that was made by the previous owners. Indeed, the Vikings Chairman John Skoglund hinted that the team would be forced to move if they didnt get a new stadium in 1997 ("Vikings say they cant stay under status quo," Charley Walters, Pioneer Press, April 10, 1997). The arguments Red made are the same arguments made by the former owners in their presentation before the Sports Facilities Commission, December 19, 1996, as did NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in his statement before the Advisory Task Force on Professional Sports in Minnesota, September 25, 1995. So this is not new, and, hence, is not about Red. It is about the failure of nerve of the once bold captains of industry now become timid and cautious, and their sons more so, ready to sacrifice the Vikings on that altar of timidity and caution. But they dont want the blame. So they sell it to an outside scapegoat.
A final "proof": despite providing all of this information to the legislature and others, NOT ONE addressee or staff person has gotten back to me nor asked either Otis or me to participate, despite my sending an outline of eight ways to finance the stadiums without new taxes and my providing 10 models (five full private) for how to do so along with their 3rd verification (http://www.peterjessen-gpa.com/pages/mn.html#Third ). I therefore must conclude that the Stadium study panel is another way for the legislature to stall until Red finally announces he is moving the team or selling to an outsider who will move the team. Then the "conspiracy" Weiner talks about will be complete. Everyone in a position to ensure that the Vikings stay can say they "tried" and then will all heap blame and scorn on Red, when the real villains of the piece are the previous owner set who made the decision to squeeze them out and the last two Governors who have acquiesced in this and the legislature which refused to look at the issue in other than black and white terms.
If this scare tactic doesnt work, then, when the dust settles Minnesota will be right back where it was in the 1950s: a state with two lesser sports, NBA, NHL, and missing the two major sports, NFL, MLB. That will be the ultimate irony of a town that had one glorious burst of bold moving forth in the 1950s, only to trade a half-century of progress for an upcoming half-century of enmity from the fans and voters. And then the bold family names that stood tall in the 1950s will be vilified throughout the 2000s for their actions of running the peoples team out of town, and, if the situation worsens, BOTH teams. Wow! What a final family legacy for all of those families to be remembered by. And what a final irony for all of the sports writers who have so often scorned the Vikings rather than celebrate the joy and pride the team has meant for the community, will also lose, their jobs. They will have the "honor" of being the last ones to leave the building, turning the lights off of a sports era as they leave.
November 25, 2001
And although my emotions have roller coastered from excited to saddened to being in mourning, let us get real, let us get positive. Our general thesis holds: Minnesota in general, and the Twin Cities in particular, can support new stadiums for the Twins, Vikings, and Gophers, and operate all, including ongoing activities at the Metrodome, at a profit (although the Metrodome may well be remodeled for the Twins). So let us return to a positive stance, and repeat what was said at the beginning:
...if the various main stakeholder groups in Minnesota (teams and their owners, legislators and the jurisdictions, stadiums and their managers, corporations and university, urban/suburban/rural, white and black) can see that they are all partners in the sports-entertainment industry, then no one will lose and all will be winners. If each can help the other get what they need and what they want, then all will get what they need and want. That is always at the heart of any great enterprise that involves great institutions and individuals. The various models, proposals, and papers on this web site provide the building blocks of everything that is needed to get started to achieve each group's dream of obtaining a new stadium.