What was old is new in Vikings debate

10:01 PM, Apr 19, 2012   |    comments
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Downtown East stadium rendering

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As lawmakers tackle another day of the Vikings stadium debate, you might be wondering how we got here.

Just ask former Pioneer Press reporter, and now Macalester College professor, Aron Kahn and you'll get three decades worth of answers.

"It's a tough issue," he said.

He has covered pretty much every stadium debate in the state of Minnesota in recent memory. He even remembers covering the debate over whether to build the Metrodome in the late 70's.

The arguments back then are similar to the ones today.

"The problem the Vikings are battling is a strain of populism," Kahn said. "And it runs amongst liberals and conservative. It says basically we should not have to pay for stadiums for wealthy people, I.E. owners and players."

He says Minnesota is one of, if not the toughest states, to build a stadium with public money. Still, he says, pretty much every other state, county, or city outside of Minnesota used public money to build a stadium.

And when it comes to the arguments, Minnesotans may ask themselves, haven't we heard this before?

"We have now outgrown the Metrodome so it doesn't fit for the Vikings but it fits for thousands of other things," said Red McCombs in 1999. McCombs previously owned the Vikings and made similar arguments back then that current owner Zigi Wilf is making now.

In fact, Kahn interviewed McCombs in his San Antonio office shortly after he sold the team. "He basically said what's being said now, and that was a long time ago," said Kahn.

But it is not just the Vikings. The Twins used similar arguments too. And it took them about a decade to get a stadium, which they barely got.

Kahn reminds us the Twins' lease at the Metrodome had expired for a few years, yet they continued to play there until they got a stadium deal.

So what does all this tell us about the current Vikings stadium bill? The short answer is, it's anyone's guess. "Nobody knows if it's going to pass, no one," he said.

But Kahn, a guy who has had a front row seat to this on-going saga for decades, is not holding back on a prediction.

"The Vikings will stay. Minnesotans love the Vikings. They'll eventually get their stadium, but it may not be this year," he said.

It all comes down to popularity, he says, and that's something the NFL can't ignore. "This is the fifth best TV market in terms of the NFL and TV is the greatest source of revenue for NFL teams, not the stadium," he said.

(Copyright 2012 KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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