Starters-The CEO Squad on the Stadium Issue-October 2011

“We’re really about jobs and regionalism; the Vikings happen to be part of it.”

If the Vikings land a stadium deal in the Twin Cities this fall, Jac Sperling will be at the center of it.
“He has represented, I’ll just say ‘some of,’ the business community that’s very interested in making sure the Vikings fi nd a location here,” said Richard Davis, CEO of U.S. Bancorp, in an early September interview. Davis is one of 10 local CEOs who quietly pooled $250,000 of their own money to hire sports attorney Sperling earlier this year. In the interview, Davis and Ecolab CEO Douglas Baker declined to name other members of their group.
“We don’t have a solution yet, but we’re well along the way to having a venue that is being vetted,” Davis said. He said Sperling was hired as the “guy who works with the league, works with the team, works with legislators, whoever he works with . . . to put together a viable plan or plans to keep the team here.”
If that sounds as though there still might be multiple plans in play, Sperling said in a separate conversation that there aren’t. “I’m unaware of any discussions about an alternative,” he said. “The parties are moving full bore ahead on Arden Hills.”
Sperling is vice chairman of the Minnesota Wild and the team’s parent company, Minnesota Sports and Entertainment. He’s known for his work to bring the Wild to St. Paul, and for brokering venue and team deals in Denver and around the country. He was also a facilitator when the Vikings tried to put together a stadium deal several years ago in Blaine.
Davis and Baker called the Vikings a “key asset” for the community. They described their group, the Minnesota Competitiveness Fund, as “neutral about the site” for a stadium. Asked why they haven’t come out in support of the Vikings’ Arden Hills plans, Davis said, “Nobody’s proven that it’s fi nancially sound yet. The taxation isn’t clear, the fi nal allocation of monies isn’t clear.” He doesn’t support legislators’ proposed referendum on the question: “I think a referendum is wholly unnecessary and has probably never been successful for any like circumstance in the recent history of this community.”
Baker said the fund’s support for the Vikings’ plans “is not unconditional,” and all constituencies—team, league, legislators, community—need to feel good about a deal.
“We’re really about jobs and regionalism,” Davis said, citing his and Baker’s involvement in the Itasca Project and the new Greater MSP organization. “The Vikings happen to be part of it.”