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Editor's column: Dayton not messing around

April 30, 2011
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

When it comes to erasing the state's $5 billion budget deficit, you might not agree with Gov. Mark Dayton's plan to stick it to the rich people and make them pay more in taxes (let's not get into that right now). You might think he's not much of a public speaker, at least not for a governor (and you'd be right). You might not even agree with his choice of dogs (he just loves those German Shepherds).

But one thing you have to agree on is that even though it sometimes sounds like words are just stumbling out of his mouth instead of being spoken with some type of eloquence, he's saying the right things when it comes to a Vikings stadium.

As badly as our governor wants the team to stay in Minnesota, as much as he wants to see a new stadium built here, he won't sell out and he apparently won't let Vikings owner and self-proclaimed Giants fan Zygi Wilf get away with trying to leave the citizens of Minnesota holding a massive tab.

Wilf, a shrewd, successful, German-born, Jersey attorney-turned-businessman, is offering to pay up to one-third of the cost for a new, roofless stadium. Depending on who's crunching the numbers, that's $230 million, ballpark. The team he owns is worth almost three times that amount - since he took over the Vikings, the team's worth has grown by more than $200 million.

These are lofty numbers, but, like every other professional sports team owner, Wilf's greed and ego are driving him to want more. These guys have an unquenchable thirst for fortune and if they're losing money won't hesitate to move a team, or sell it, if the deal is right.

You can't blame him, really. The Vikings are ranked 31st out of 32 teams in estimated worth and Wilf knows he can change that and make loads more money with a new stadium. He'll get his new stadium - heck, it might even be in Minnesota - but it doesn't look like Dayton plans on letting him lowball the state.

A bill introduced by Republican lawmakers this month calls for the team to pay a third of the cost of a new stadium. But the governor, who won't support an open-aired stadium, on Monday said the Vikings should pay up to half the cost of a new stadium. One that comes with a roof would run about $900 million, so that would leave Wilf with a tab of roughly $450 million.

So where does that put us? This give-and-take between businessman and politician might be resolved peacefully. Wilf, realizing the lowball approach won't fly, could agree to dig a little deeper in his pockets to get his stadium built, and Dayton can declare victory after putting his foot down. Or, this ongoing thrust-and-parry routine could escalate into a Terminator vs. Predator-type war. And with both this year's session and the Vikings' Metrodome lease getting closer and closer to their respective expiration dates, things could get uglier than Ragnar in the morning.

It appears Dayton, who earlier this week put his other foot down with the Legislature to get him its budget-fixing solutions by next week, will stand his ground - agree or disagree with his politics, you can't help but commend him if he does - and that Wilf will be forced to make another major business decision: pay a little more or move the team from Minnesota. The former would cost him millions, the latter would cost us our football team.

Which way do you think the East Coast businessman will go?



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