Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY. October 10, 2010. Photo by Matt Warren.
The Minnesota Vikings announced on Tuesday that they have reached a deal for a new $1 billion stadium to flip twin cities from Minneapolis to a suburb of St. Paul. The brand new retractable roof stadium, if approved, would keep the Vikings in the Minnesota for the foreseeable future.
The stadium will be financed by three sources. The team is contributing $407 million. Ramsey County, which was the driving force behind the new deal, will finance $350 million with a half-cent sales tax increase. The state will be contributing $300 million to the stadium.
Here's where the proposal gets murky, though. The proposed new site would require massive road and infrastructure upgrades in the area surrounding the site, which would push the state's bill over the $300 million mark - which the state says is all it can afford. They can put that money into roads or into the stadium, but not both. By no means is this stadium a done deal, especially with Minnesota's state legislature session less than two weeks from closing.
When Los Angeles is mentioned as a relocation spot for an NFL team, the Vikings usually join the Buffalo Bills at the top of the list because of their stadium situation. The Vikings' current lease at the Metrodome expires after this season, and the team will be without a home. If they move to Los Angeles, it would significantly reduce the likelihood of the Bills also calling Southern California home.
The other team that joins the Bills and Vikings on the potential relocation list is the San Diego Chargers. Like the Vikings, the Chargers are looking for a new stadium. San Diego would prefer to keep the team they call their own, but with California's economy in the gutter, it's a tough sell to use taxpayer money on a stadium. Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union-Tribune summed up the political plight on Monday:
"Same thing in Minneapolis. Same thing here. Absent the theoretical threat that AEG orcan bring their stadium proposals off the drawing board and into reality, the pressure to placate NFL tenants in smaller markets is minimal," Sullivan wrote.
Essentially, small markets shouldn't be shaking in their boots about Los Angeles swooping in just yet.
"Yet as Minnesota’s parallel stadium proposals demonstrate, the threat of franchise relocation can be a powerful incentive in public works projects," continued Sullivan. "So long as ominous noises continue to arise out of Los Angeles on the stadium front, teams with accessible escape clauses will continue to exploit local anxieties to cut sweeter deals."
The Bills aren't worried about getting a new stadium or relocating until the team is sold. But that could happen at any time in the near future. If another team moves to Los Angeles to avoid a sticky stadium situation before the Bills go up for sale, it drastically increases the chances the Bills stay in Buffalo long term. It appears, at least for now, that the Vikings are one step closer to staying in Minnesota - and also to pushing the Bills closer to the top of the relocation list.