Even diehard fans divided over paying for stadium
New Hope, Minn. — The Vikings fell to 2 and 7 last night, with an ugly loss to Green Bay. They've had similar luck so far at the Capitol, where they've been pushing for a new stadium this year.
But even with a dismal season, and opinion against public help for a new stadium, almost no price for the Vikings is too high for some Minnesotans who gathered at the Cinema Grill in New Hope Monday night to cheer for their team.
Like many of the fans there, Betty Jean Rode said she worried less about whether the team loses football games than whether Minnesota will lose the Vikings.
"My folks had season tickets since I was a kid," Rode said as she passed out strands of purple and gold beads to the other fans sitting around the tables. She even put on purple fingernail polish to watch her team take on the rival Packers.
"Even if you're not a fan, and I've got friends who are not fans, they even agree with me that it still keeps a lot of money in our home town here," she said, while raising the fear of the team leaving town if it can't strike a deal to build a new taxpayer-supported stadium
"It'd be sad to see the team not here. We need football here," she said, adding that she'd willing to pay more ion taxes to help make that happen, even though she's struggling to make ends meet with her part-time pet sitting business in Golden Valley.
"One way or another they're going to get my tax dollars," she said. "I think that putting it into a stadium -- everything goes around and comes around one way or another." Opinion polls show most Minnesotans don't share that sentiment. Few want to pay for a new home for the Vikings. But a vocal minority thinks a half-billion dollars or so for the Vikings would be money well spent, on top of the roughly $400 million the Vikings have said they will pitch in.
Scott Asplund, of Maple Grove, is one of them. Known as "Skolt," he was hard to miss in the crowd.
"Got the horned helmet on," he said. "I've got my jersey. I've got my arm bands. I've got the camo pants. I've got my sword, got my shield, purple towel, the socks, the Vikings shoes. I mean, I'm all geared up. And of course the face paint, yes. Gotta be here purple."
Among the fans who back a new stadium, Asplund might be one of the least able to contribute -- he hasn't had a full time job since he got laid off from a Twin Cities optical business two years ago. He's gone back to school, and spends a fair amount of his time stumping for a stadium, for free.
He thinks a new stadium will bring NCAA basketball finals back to Minnesota, maybe even a Super Bowl.
"You're talking hotels, you're talking shopping, you're talking restaurants, you're talking about people traveling, and spending on gas and travel accessories," he said. All that business would generate tax reveue "that the state will benefit hugely from."
Others watching the game, like fan and high school math teacher Kristin Vandenhuel, said Minnesota can afford the stadium -- despite budget cuts and even borrowing against school aid.
Teachers "are seeing cuts just like everybody else," she said, adding that the Vikings' proposal for taxpayer funding was not only reasonable, but a way for the state to have a kind of ownership stake in the team.
"I think what they're asking for isn't so much that we can't handle it," she said. "The Wilf family wants to see that Minnesotans have an investment in it as well, and they want to feel ownership in it as well,"
Bar owner Josh Mandel said the Vikings have helped him keep his place open in Hanover, so he believes in the return on investment.
"You know, it brings in people that normally wouldn't come out, to watch a game," he said. But even Mandel said there is a limit. While he supports a downtown Minneapolis casino, a lottery game and other gambling proceeds to help pay for the stadium," I don't believe tax money should fund an NFL stadium."
Which leaves the team's fans, like the rest of the state, divided about what to do for their favorite team.
- Morning Edition, 11/15/2011, 7:40 a.m.