ChatWrap: The middleman in PSL debate

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
10:00
AM ET
Thanks to those of you who participated in Tuesday's SportsNation chat. One of your questions merited a follow-up, mostly because it pointed out an important nuance in Tuesday's post on the potential for personal seat licenses (PSLs) at the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium.

As we noted, Gov. Mark Dayton threatened to scuttle the deal if the Vikings proceeded with such plans. We noted Dayton has already signed legislation that permits the sale of PSLs and explicitly allows the Vikings to use the proceeds toward their $477 million share of the project.

There is one detail I didn't emphasize enough, however. The stadium bill leaves the final decision not with the Vikings or Dayton, but instead with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFC) -- the public entity in charge of designing, constructing and operating the stadium. The Vikings would act as a selling and marketing agent only after a plan is approved by the MSFC.

That fact prompted this exchange in our chat:

Jeff S (Hutchinson MN)

Saw your response on the Vikings PSLs. I don't think they'll happen with the letter that Dayton sent. The legislation says that the Authority has the exclusive right to sell licenses. Given that the Authority has 3 Dayton appointees and 2 from the City of Minneapolis...well, Dayton's opinion would seem to have a lot of pull in the decision of the Authority to issue PSLs. Think this will be a roadblock for the Vikings?

Kevin Seifert (2:10 PM)

That's a fair point and one that is worth circling back on. It's hard to know how the Authority would split the "tie" if it comes to that. But the larger point, to me, is that Dayton is protesting a possibility he accepted when he signed the bill.

Jeff is correct. Dayton appointed a majority of the five-member board, including the chair, Michele Kelm-Helgen, a former Dayton staffer. The board is supposed to be independent of political influence, but in the real world we know there is no such thing.

To be clear, I have no reason to advocate for PSLs. I just think it's pretty transparent on Dayton's part to express outrage at something he has already accepted in negotiations. Moreover, like it or not, PSLs were an inevitable consequence of a new stadium if you follow professional sports trends. PSLs are a proven revenue driver in professional sports markets, including the Twin Cities, and it was na´ve to think this issue wouldn't arise.

I won't begin to predict what the MSFC will decide, but to me this is no different than buying a house with an unfinished basement. If you didn't factor in the cost of what it would take to finish the basement in your financial planning, that's on you. Unfortunately, PSLs are the unfinished basements of stadium financing. I would be surprised if they don't surface in some form in the final analysis.

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