Vikings Stadium Dilemma Intrigues Packer Backer

Trust me. Forgive me. I know you’ve had enough of Packer fans – I have been one since 1948 – and their exuberance following the victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

I just want to make one point: It’s easier to support a team, emotionally and financially (with taxpayers’ money), when 112,158 of those taxpayers own stock in the ballclub. The Green Bay Packers are the only publicly owned sports franchise in America.

One afternoon last week I watched thousands of those owners sit in a frigid Lambeau Field, after hundreds of others shoveled the snow out of the stadium for $8 an hour, and cheer their returning heroes.

In Minnesota, our governor and Legislature are exploring ways to help support construction of a new Vikings stadium, with about a third of the money put up by the millionaire owners, Zygi and Mark Wilf and family. I don’t blame Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators for finally getting out front on the issue; no elected official wants to lose the Vikings franchise for the Twin Cities.

I’m just resentful over the implied threats, and blackmail, in the whole deal: Pony up, folks, or we’ll move this bad boy to Los Angeles. That’s a tough one to swallow at a time when potholes dot the streets and highways, homeless shelters fill up on cold nights, and college students graduate with growing loan payments.

Ten years ago in Green Bay, county taxpayers approved a one-half percent sales tax to help finance a $295-million expansion and renovation of Lambeau. But many of them owned shares in the Packers, from which they get no dividends, ticket or transfer rights. And the team cannot be moved except through dissolution of the Packers’ corporation.

That’s not a model likely to be repeated because the NFL officially prohibits any team, except for the Packers, being owned by more than 30 owners.

Even if we could own a small piece of the Vikings, it’s hard to argue the team is as big a community asset in Minnesota and the Twin Cities as the Packers are to Wisconsin and Green Bay, where the state leads the nation in per capita brandy consumption and the city proudly hails itself as the toilet paper capital of the world.

Good luck next year, Vikings.