Los Angeles posing little immediate threat to Vikings fans

Last night, you may have heard, a committee at the Minnesota Legislature turned down the Vikings stadium bill. Today, from what I can tell from the Twitter feed, sports talk stations are urging people to get the pitchforks out, and Gov. Mark Dayton has taken on the role the Vikings steadfastly refuse to take on: The guy who verbalizes the threat that the team would leave for Los Angeles.

"It's a mistake to think the Vikings and the (National Football) League will continue with the status quo," Vikings stadium pit boss Lester Bagley said last night.

Bagley didn't make the explicit threat because he can't. There's no place for them to go, and you don't bluff until that fact isn't so clear.

"Dayton said that he planned to ask the Vikings for patience," MPR News reports today.

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There's no need to. They don't have a choice.

This is a story that should be being told from Los Angeles as much as Saint Paul and yet public policy is being formulated by a threat that (a) hasn't been made and (b) isn't realistic -- yet -- even if it is made.

A week ago, for example, I pointed out that the "new stadium" situation in Los Angeles is, itself, a mess, with three separate possibilities and all of them years away from being settled. In the last week, it's got even more uncertain.

Today, for example, comes word that the Los Angeles Dodgers, who've recently been sold to new owners, might develop Chavez Ravine.

Nobody is saying how that might happen, but it might mean relocating the Dodgers to downtown Los Angeles, on land where one developer wants to build the football stadium Minnesota politicians seem to fear.

The Los Angeles Times says:

There would be even more potential if the baseball stadium were to be relocated downtown, as many have suggested. AEG Entertainment President Tim Leiweke, who is leading plans to build an NFL football stadium downtown, said a downtown baseball stadium would be among other possible options if the football stadium were derailed.

Beverly Hills apartment developer Alan Casden, another unsuccessful bidder for the Dodgers, had made relocating the stadium a cornerstone of an earlier proposal to buy the team in 2003.

At that time, Casden criticized Dodger Stadium for convoluted parking lots, a poor seating plan and a location inconvenient for both fans and nearby residents who bear the brunt of traffic, noise and litter in their neighborhood.

One analyst says it would take years to sort out the Dodgers' owner's plan, and further exacerbate the "you go first" situation with competing developments that has stalled any progress on a new football stadium in Los Angeles.

True, Vikings majority owner Zygi Wilf could sell the team and, theoretically, that could increase the chance the team would relocate. But Forbes values the team at $796 million, a lot more than the $600 million he paid for the team, but fairly low on the return-on-investment of a typical sports franchise, and it ranks 28th in the NFL.

How could Wilf get the value of his team to increase? A stadium deal.

There might be many good reasons for the state and Minneapolis to pony up whatever public money may be required to build a new stadium -- jobs, coolness, pride. But quick passage of a bill with questionable financing in the waning days of a legislative session to preclude a threat that isn't real isn't one of them.

"We have to get a stadium next year or the Vikings will leave," the governor said. "It's just as clear as that. We can't have it both ways. We can't not do a new stadium and have the Vikings remain here very long."

Over time, he may be right. Nobody thinks the Metrodome is a long-term solution to anything.

But the urgency of a stadium in Minnesota primarily depends on what happens in Los Angeles. By next year, Los Angeles authorities and developers could get everything squared away and agree on a master plan for a football stadium and the Dodgers' future home.

But if reports from Los Angeles are correct, even getting to that point will take years.