An Interview? Cory Merrifield from Save the Vikes Talks Stadium

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As stated previously, probably to the deaf ears of you goons, representatives reached out to the wiener-iest Minnesota Vikings blog on the internet to see if we’d be interested in talking stadium issues with Save The Vikes.org’s founder, Cory Merrifield. I solicited questions from you ladies, came up with some of my own, and boomeranged them off this weekend to get a response. Cory was kind enough to answer what probably looked like sarcastic questions (they probably kind of were) honestly, and brought up some items which I did not know before. This isn’t surprising, probably, because when it comes to talking a Vikings stadium I have only one chief interest: WHATTLL IT LUKE LAIK?? I don’t care how it’s paid, I just want to see some cool architecture. In other breaking news, I’m pretty shallow.

Regardless, check out the back and forth PJD had with Cory (as well as some follow up questions I didn’t get a response to), and if you are so inclined go be a grown up and visit their actual debate. It will involve Jeff Anderson (Assistant Director of Public Affairs for the Vikings), Cory Merrifield (founder of SaveTheVikes.Org) and Art Rolnick (former director of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve). The slap action gets started 7:00 pm tonight in Willey Hall room 125/175 on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank. LEZZ DO IT!!


http://purplejesus.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/metrodome2stadium0008.jpgPurple Jesus Diaries: A lot of our readers don’t care HOW a stadium gets built, they just want one built. They recognize the other great football temples around the country and think “That’s not the Metrodome” or what’s left of it anyway. This clearly isn’t the feeling of most people in the state, however. How do you turn their opinions around? Do you focus on economic benefit? Other events in the new stadium? And, personally, saying “The Metrodome is unfit” doesn’t matter a lick to these people. They couldn’t care if the Vikings left. So outside of the benefit of having an actual NFL team, what are the other main tool to use to convince people who are opposed?

Cory Merrifield: Sounds like they can’t be convinced, so why bother? Sometimes some people just want to rant. 70% of the TV’s in MN are tuned to the Vikings. The Vikings contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy and provide jobs. Take the NFL aspect out of it. We have a business man that is willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into our community. Our lawmakers should be having that discussion with him.

PJD: I personally think that’s a fair stance to take, but I’d be hesitant to do it. Sure, 70% of TVs state wide are tuned in, but that doesn’t actually mean 70% of PEOPLE statewide support public funding for a new stadium. Many are steadfast against public funding right now, but you have to figure in order to get a majority of representatives to offer a supporting vote of this deal, you need to have close to a majority of residents in support of it as well, or at least neutral. It’d be political suicide otherwise. And while I like the approach of working with a business man wanting to invest in our community, “our community” isn’t defined the same by everyone state wide. I still think it’s a bit of a hurdle to jump and finding community support is imperative. Other items you’ve mentioned (domed stadium, host of regional events, etc.) all help turn the tide, I think.

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PJD: My vote for a new stadium name would be “Bud Grant Field” or perhaps “The Docked Sex Boat.” Yours?

CM: The name of a corporation that will pay $14-25 million annually to put their name on the side of the building. I think Ecolab Field has a nice ring to it or Best Buy Stadium.

PJD: So Target is probably out of the bidding? It’d be pretty amazing if they had a trifecta on stadium naming rights for three major sports teams in one area. Best Buy, Pillsbury, General Mills or 3M are all businesses which stand out for me as well.

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PJD: The Metrodome has serious questions right now, even if the roof was intact. It has trouble funneling people, obstructed sight lines, weak concessions, on and on and on. However … The old dump has some kind of charm. Many of my readers and I reflect fondly upon Visanthe Shiancoe’s remark of calling the Metrodome “Zygi’s Hood” in reference to when the Cowboys came from their Taj Mahal to play Minnesota in the 2009 playoffs. Really, I think this is reflective of the tough spirit of Minnesota fans, and really of people who just live here particularly throughout these never ending winters. How can you capture that as a rallying focus? Can you convince the Vikings they don’t need a stadium of opulence but of functionality?

CM: No need to convince, the Vikings have said that themselves. A new stadium would not put them at the top of the pack financially. They are seeking a modest stadium that is going to put them at the middle of the pack in the NFL in terms of profitability.

PJD: I think this is an important piece of info that hasn’t been shared as globally and helps people get behind the building. It’s not a stadium of opulence (I has it!) but a location of function.

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PJD: Outside of Arden Hills, Minneapolis, Bloomington, and maybe Brooklyn Park, what other parts of the cities, counties, or state have you heard a stadium being discussed? Would Saint Paul work (I think it’d be kind of neat …)? Are they still looking over by the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market? Would they ever consider something outside of the seven counties (I would guess no, but thought I’d ask)? Do you have a preference of where it would be?

CM: Lowertown St. Paul has a spot, although the St. Paul Saints are eyeballing that spot. Last I heard Hennepin County was looking at the Farmers Market spot. Currently, all efforts are being put into exploring the Ramsey County site.

PJD: I think Lowertown would be interesting, but would naturally worry about parking and entrance and exits for cars. Arden Hills seems the likely spot, even though from what I hear from fans, the downtown location would still be the preference.

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PJD: The open versus closed roof debate rages! The game at TCF Bank, although terrible in game result, was fantastic to witness. Is an outdoor stadium really plausible? How would that affect funding support from both government officials and fans?

CM: The State will not partner with the team on a stadium if they don’t have a roof. No state partnership, no stadium. No stadium, no Vikings in MN. End of discussion. The stadium can’t host national and community events without the roof, which benefit the community.

PJD: Odds on Minnesota getting a Super Bowl then? Would that make Peter King cry because it’s cold? Hey, New York is getting one, and they had an even worse winter!

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PJD: Racino, personal seat licenses, and taxes on user fees seem like a no-brainer. Those who want the stadium, pay for it. I don’t get it. What’s the hold up here?

CM: Racino is in motion and we are actively working with them. PSL’s don’t work in this market as we don’t have the economic scale of other cities that have them. The Twins tried it and they failed miserably.

PJD: Can you talk more on user taxes? Jersey sales, hats, memorabilia, etc? This seems like a very plausible option, but I’m not sure if the revenue generated is projected to be enough.

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PJD: The Vikings are pretty damn good in a Domed environment. What’re the odds a “Metrodome II” is built that would work to these strengths?

CM: The plan on the table is called Metrodome Next. It is everything the Metrodome “should be”.

PJD: That sounds kind of OK, actually …

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PJD: What’s the contingency plan if a new stadium IS agreed upon and the Vikings need to play somewhere for two years? Would they consider a short term lease in the Dome? Two or three years even? Play at TCF Bank during that time? Would heating coils need to be installed? Do you think I could sneak my scotch in? Would they sell beer? How about Target Field? That would be sweet.

CM: If they build on the Dome site, they would play at TCF Bank stadium. If they build anywhere else they will play in the dome. I sincerely hope if they do play at TCF Bank that they allow alcohol.

PJD: Can the owners and the NFL REALLY not foot half the bill of a $500 Million stadium? REALLY?

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PJD: I did a bunch of academic research on public stadium funding in undergrad and there is seriously, like, ZERO academic sources that say publicly funded stadiums pay for themselves. Promise of economic development is almost never met and the benefits are largely intangibles. The St. Louis Cardinals newest Busch Stadium is always the example, and even the Metrodome … before the Guthrie went in across Washington Ave, that entire neighbor hood looked like a war zone, not a revitalized community after a stadium was built. I guess I don’t know if this is really a question, because despite all this research, I’d still be fine with paying .03 cents on a dollar in Hennepin County for a new stadium. But how do you convince others to do likewise?

CM: There is an answer to this, I am waiting on confirmation of some info… back with you on this one.

PJD: Great, thanks.

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PJD: Can you PLEASE help me explain to people that the money that would be approved to go to a stadium IS NOT being taken away dollar for dollar from education and health care? That’s not of it works, people!

CM: Does building libraries or roads take dollars from Healthcare or Education? We are talking about building public infrastructure for the community. Last I checked Healthcare wasn’t guaranteed in the Constitution.

PJD: Boom, roasted, dissenters! Thanks for that alternative view on the issue.
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Thanks to Amanda Oleson for setting this all up, Cory Merrifield for taking the time to respond, for you dear readers who (partially, don’t go peacocking, now) helped guide this discussion, and for the representatives who will inevitably build us our stadium or you’ll find your ass out of a job. Check out SaveTheVikes.org here. Any more questions? NEW COMMENTS SECTION, PEOPLE! Use it.

PJD

About PJD

I once saw Paul Edinger kick a 56-yard field goal for the Minnesota Vikings against the Green Bay Packers to win a game in the Metrodome. It was exhilarating.

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