Archived Story

Spending lessons

Published 10:17am Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Those who are unhappy that the Minnesota Vikings, with legislative approval for state support of a new stadium now in hand, are seeking to maximize revenues from their fan base need to remember this development the next time an ultra-rich sports team holds its hand out for public help.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who earlier this year was a leading proponent of state involvement in the Vikings’ stadium project is now apparently shocked and surprised that the Vikings are exploring ways to get their fans to pay for the stadium. The governor wrote a letter to the Vikings owners this week to say that the Vikings shouldn’t require their fans to buy so-called seat licenses as a prerequisite for season tickets. The governor also wishes the Vikings wouldn’t funnel proposed seat license fees through a government agency to avoid paying tax on the revenue. And he isn’t happy that the team has not only agreed to play one of its home games in London next year, but that it might consider doing so again in the future.

These things, which have annoyed Dayton and many others, are not in themselves bad. Indeed, they’re the kind of things businesses have to consider if they’re going to profit — which, of course, is the entire point of business. A disconnect can take place only if anyone ever believed the Vikings’ goal was to be good to Minnesota, rather than to make a profit for the team’s owners. But that’s the sort of fuzzy thinking which, along with a great lobbying effort, got the team most of the money it needs for a new stadium — for free.

Being a for-profit business is a good thing. It’s what made America what it is today. Confusing business goals with government goals, however, is almost always a mistake. Sometimes those goals are well synchronized. Often they aren’t. Perhaps Minnesota’s leaders will remember that when a similar situation next arises.

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