Will Minnesota cave to NFL demands on new stadium?

As the clock ticks down to zero hour on the 2012 NFL Draft, there are plenty of folks wondering who the Minnesota Vikings will pick with the third overall selection. After all, with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III locked in at #1 and #2 respectively, it’s really the only open question left for draftnicks to consider.

Then again, a more interesting question to ask might be whether the Vikings will call Minnesota home for much longer. It’s not an idle question. For years the team’s owner, Ziggy Wilf, has been complaining about the aging Metrodome and how its lack of modern amenities makes it more difficult for the team to remain profitable.

Then again, local politicians might not be completely on board with the idea of using public money to build yet another stadium with taxpayer dollars. In recent years, locals have built new arenas for the Minnesota Wild of the NHL (Xcel Energy Center), the Minnesota Twins of MLB (Target Field) as well as an outdoor stadium for the University of Minnesota football team (TCF Field). When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see why paying for another stadium might be too much for a strapped state government.

Hovering over the situation is the ever-present threat that the Vikings, who have called Minnesota home since they joined the league as an expansion team in the 1960s, could pick up and move to more hospitable climes — and in this case that means Los Angeles. It’s a threat that the league has used often ever since the Rams and the Raiders left the nation’s second-largest metropolitan area without a team following the 1994 NFL season.

Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, is a supporter of building a new stadium, but Republicans in the state legislature have other ideas. While local support for the stadium seemed to get a boost in the wake of a visit from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Republicans in the State Senate threw a wrench into that plan earlier today.

The original proposal funded the state’s financial contribution to the project via an expansion of legal gambling. But the state GOP opposes any expansion of legal gambling, and a group of state senators have proposed raising the additional funds toward building the stadium by levying a bevy of new taxes. Included in the plan are a new tax on Vikings players and team executives, a variety of taxes on items sold inside the proposed stadium and even a tax on online sales of NFL merchandise.

So how will this all shake out? Supporters of the stadium plan would like to get everything wrapped up before the legislature adjourns the current session next Monday night. But I think they should chart a different course. I think the NFL has absolutely no intention to move the Vikings to California. The locals ought to call Commissioner Goodell’s bluff and hold out for a better deal.

Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.