NFL officials converge on State Capitol
by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
National Football League officials were at the State Capitol on Tuesday, Oct. 18, meeting with lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman at an afternoon press conference said league officials were encouraged by what lawmakers were telling them.
“There was a lot of common language,” he said of visits with Republican and Democratic lawmakers. He sensed a commitment among lawmakers to finding a stadium solution, he said.
The NFL is currently finalizing a finance program that could have the league committing money towards a new Vikings stadium, Grubman explained. Indeed, Grubman said he was “highly optimistic” funds would be found to support the Vikings.
Still, Grubman also indicated that NFL officials remain concerned about the stadium situation in Minnesota.
“We’re worried about stalemate,” Grubman said, defining stalemate as the Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expiring or about to expire, and no stadium solution in place.
While insisting the NFL is solely intent on finding the Vikings a stadium solution in Minnesota — any notion to the contrary “couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said — Grubman went on to say that stalemate in Minnesota does open doors for others.
One often raised scenario in the media is that the Vikings could be lured away to Los Angeles should a Minnesota stadium initiative collapse.
“We would like to see a franchise there,” said Grubman, adding that all the necessary pieces are coming together on stadium initiatives on the West Coast. The missing element is a NFL football franchise, he said.
Grubman, asked why the NFL and Vikings simply could not finance a stadium in Minnesota themselves, spoke of a competitive franchise marketplace and of the financial health of franchises being judged in relation to other franchises.
“There’s no one size that fits all,” he said.
He understands NFL fans, as the states they live in, are facing tough economic times, Grubman said.
“That’s not our choice to make,” he said of the decision of keeping or letting the Vikings leave Minnesota. But great cities are judged on the amenities they offer, he said.
“You have to decide what puts your city on the map — your state on the map,” Grubman said.
Dayton, speaking after his meeting with the NFL officials, said he indicated to them that he was “cautiously optimistic” a stadium solution would be found.
The governor again indicated on Tuesday that if one isn’t found in upcoming weeks, political realities — the upcoming election, for instance — could mean no solution for many months.
Politics muddles things up, and Minnesotans deserve better than the political blame-game, Dayton explained.
Dayton did not inquire in the meeting about a possible NFL contribution towards a stadium. He was slated to meet with Vikings team officials on Wednesday.