editor’s note-Will We Build It?-August 2011

editor’s note-Will We Build It?-August 2011

How might the Vikings stadium game play out? Study the quarterback.

Just about everyone has an opinion about the Minnesota Vikings stadium issue. Actually, there are several issues. Where should it be located, if it is to be relocated? Should the state pony up money to support it even though it’s facing a $5 billion budget deficit? Would a new stadium really generate economic value to the state, and the city or county in which it’s located? 

An opinion I’ve often heard from area business leaders is that we should support the development of a new stadium, and that it should be on the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market site on the north side of downtown. It seems to make the most sense from a city and regional planning perspective. The site is centrally located in the metro area, and it could tap existing parking and transportation infrastructure, including current and future public transit options. A downtown stadium also could lead to the development of a sports and entertainment district in the Twin Cities, and allow the Metrodome site to be redeveloped in a way that’s more in keeping with what city planners would like.

Of course, the opinion that matters most is that of Vikings lead investor Zygi Wilf, who remains steadfast in his support for a stadium on the 260-acre Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills. From his perspective, the Arden Hills site makes the most sense on several fronts—the most significant of which is that local political partners came forward and presented a cohesive plan with ways to help make it happen. 

It’s been known for five years that Wilf wanted to move the stadium out of Minneapolis. Why the city didn’t develop a truly workable plan the Vikings might like—rather than its Dome redevelopment concept—is mind boggling. The situation has become eerily similar to the one Minneapolis faced when Hennepin County’s leadership was needed to bring about Target Field for the Minnesota Twins. But this time, Hennepin County’s watching from the sidelines (at least for now).

So helmets off to Ramsey County officials and others who worked with the Vikings and put forth the Arden Hills plan. At least somebody took the lead on this issue. The Vikings, as well as the Wilfs, should be happy—that is, if the project gets built.

We went to press not knowing if the Minnesota Legislature would move forward with supporting the Arden Hills plan. Whatever transpires, we’re offering this month’s profile story on Wilf because he’s by far the one business leader many of us have been and will be talking about in the months ahead. An ultra-private family businessman, he moved into the combined spotlights of professional sports and politics when he and his family chose to become NFL team owners and bought the Vikings in 2005. Writer Brian Lambert peels back a few layers of privacy to reveal more about Wilf, his family, what drives him, and more.

You’ll also find in our feature story starting on page 50 a companion piece about stadium options. Even if the Arden Hills plan moves forward, it’s good to take a closer look at the Farmers’ Market site, because as history has shown us—especially with the Twins ballpark—the original plan for a major sports facility can fall apart midstream. 

And actually, there is a bit of déjà vu happening here. Target Field exists in part because of the persistence (some would say the annoying persistence) of Bruce Lambrecht, a property owner much less well-known than Zygi Wilf. Lambrecht championed the ballpark’s current location for years while others largely ignored the idea. Now Lambrecht’s at it again, promoting the Farmers’ Market site for the Vikings. The odds that a stadium will be built there are slim. But they’re no worse than they were more than a decade ago when Lambrecht went on his personal crusade to have the Twins play where Target Field now sits. 

Wilf and Lambrecht epitomize the entrepreneurial spirit. So, of course, do the 10 individuals (representing eight companies) we profile in our coverage of Ernst & Young’s 25th Annual Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. Their stories are truly inspiring, but what’s more impressive are their personalities, which we have sought to capture in this year’s coverage.

This month’s issue also features a new quarterly report on Minnesota’s economic indicators. We asked business leaders across the state what they are planning and anticipating in the quarter ahead. The result is the only statewide analysis of what leaders are expecting, versus what happened a month or quarter ago.

We hope you find the information as useful in understanding the business landscape as we have.

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