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OUR OPINION: STADIUM

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It was described as a stadium blitz. The series of high-profile meetings called by Gov. Mark Dayton last week to see if there’s a solution to the Vikings stadium question certainly put the long-standing issue on the front burner.

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The reason for the urgency is that the Vikings’ lease with the Metrodome expires this year. But is there enough time to meet the governor’s deadline for a decision by Thanksgiving?

The reluctant conclusion from this corner of the cheering section is that there will be no stadium bill. Despite the statewide popularity of Minnesota’s pro football team there just isn’t the political will or the votes for a stadium bill in these tough economic times.

This newspaper has long maintained that the state has no business using general tax revenue to support a Twin Cities-based, privately owned enterprise, such as the Vikings. In our mind the only taxes that would be justified would be user taxes on the people who attend the games or purchase team gear; self-inflicted taxes by localities that stand to profit from the economic activity; or money spent on infrastructure to accommodate traffic.

The reason this has dragged out so long is because no politician wants to be known as the man or woman who drove the Vikings from Minnesota. At the same time, few politicians want argue that the state should support profitable NFL teams when we are struggling to educate our children or provide minimal health coverage for the state’s poorest citizens. Nothing was done regarding the stadium issue during the long legislative session and we predict the same outcome if a special session is called.

What the Vikings’ reaction will be if the Legislature and governor fail to pass a bill is an open question. The football franchise should realize that in these perilous economic times the government’s willingness to bolster privately owned pro sports teams is at an all-time low. Lucrative, government support may have been a part of previous stadium packages, but we are in a new era of austerity and professional sports is going to have to live with that new reality.

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