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Craig Gilbertson, Fargo, Published April 24 2012

The real Vikings question: Is the asset worth saving?

Why should the state of Minnesota subsidize a stadium for a wealthy owner? Answer: Other areas of the country undoubtedly will. The real issue is whether the asset is worth saving.

• The Vikings generate $21.5 million in state taxes.

• Three million people attend, view on television or listen to the radio on game days. The Vikings are the most popular pro franchise in Minnesota; pro football is the most popular sport in the U.S. Only 30 locations can boast a pro football franchise on their resume.

• Out-of-metro Vikings-related visitors spend $40 million to $50 million annually in the Twin Cities. The numbers do not include ticket prices or Metrodome spending.

• Direct employment on game days is currently 2,800. The number is expected to increase to 3,200 with a new stadium. Income taxes not documented.

Why now, considering the poor state of the economy and pressing issues facing the state? Short answer: After 10 years of waffling, there is no next year. Consider also:

• Interest rates are at all-time lows.

• The construction industry in Minnesota is still in recession. The stadium would be a timely, huge stimulus when needed most.

• There will always be other issues. This from a Legislature that can’t pass fishing and hunting license fee increases that everyone agrees are necessary.

“The residents of Minnesota should vote on the matter.” No, that is why you vote for legislators that supposedly listen to their constituents while wisely serving the state’s long-term interests. It appears to me that this election-year Legislature is more interested in ignoring that responsibility. Go on the historical record by voting yes or no.

“Financing will come from gambling revenues, not from the general fund.” Forget the electronic gaming debate. Add a lottery game called “Vikings: Minnesota Forever.” Allow out-of-state and state subscriptions. Sell the tickets through existing retail channels, administered by the Minnesota State Lottery with existing commissions and appropriate administrative fees. This would allow out-of-state supporters to participate and ensure that opponents would not have to spend a dime on the project while reaping the rewards.

Three million fans! Wake up, state legislators. You are faced with an ugly, embarrassing legacy: “Son, we used to have a pro football franchise, but I was just too busy to care.”

The state of Minnesota is staring at yet another black eye regionally and nationally (re: Jesse Ventura). Of course there will be those that say, “We stuck to our principles.” Yes, and Los Angeles has your football team. To those people, do you think losing the Vikings will save one orphan, buy one book, or for that matter, solve any pressing issue?

You know what you call the Twin Cities without pro sports? A cold Omaha.