The Vikings are building a brand new stadium in downtown Minneapolis to the tune of $1 billion. About half of this is coming from Minnesota taxpayers. Not that the taxpayers agreed to it, mind you. Those of us lucky enough to live in Minneapolis are doubly blessed to fund it with both state and city tax dollars. (Minneapolis residents were against city dollars for a stadium by a large majority. The city council passed it anyway, after some major arm twisting by former Mayor R.T. Rybak. Oh, most of those city council members are now former also, including my own. I do not think it is too strong to say that Minneapolis residents felt betrayed by the city council. And we turned it over in a big way.)
Back to the stadium. The Vikings are building a $1 billion stadium in downtown Minneapolis, a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River, and they will not allot $1.1 million needed for special glass that will decrease the number of bird collisions. (Regular glass often isn’t perceived by birds and they fly right into it.)
They told the Star Tribune that they “can’t afford” the added cost of the special glass.
Can’t afford my ass. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has a net worth of $1.3 billion. A million dollars isn’t even a tithe of that. It isn’t a tenth of a tithe. It isn’t even a tenth of a tenth of a tithe. Adrian Peterson (no relation) makes more than $11 million annually (plus bonuses for things like working out).
The new stadium will be in east Minneapolis, much closer to the Mississippi than Russia is to Sarah Palin’s back yard. The Mississippi River is one of the major migratory bird passages in North America. Nearly half of North America’s species spend at least part of their lives on the Mississippi Flyway. Minnesota’s state bird, the Common Loon, uses the Mississippi Flyway. Good god, they’re using my tax dollars to kill the state bird.
I’m not sure why the Vikings want to pay someone to pick up dead birds before every game rather than just put in the safety glass. Perhaps it’s a matter of “principle.” According to Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority (MSFA, established by the Minnesota legislature to oversee the stadium from design through operation), the stadium design was started before the adoption of the state guidelines on bird-safe glass, so it isn’t subject to those rules. So there.
Oh, did I mention we have state guidelines? They require bird-safe glass on projects built with bonding money. This is a woman appointed by the Governor of Minnesota to a committee established by the Minnesota legislature. Presumably, they—both the governor and the legislature—want her to represent Minnesota.
We are extremely proud of our nature here in Minnesota, even in the heart of Minneapolis. We didn’t want our tax dollars to go to this stadium, and we certainly don’t want them used to kill our birds. And she doesn’t want to follow the law because of a timing technicality?
Maybe a little national attention will get some action. It’s recently made the Wall Street Journal.
But I won’t rely on that. I’ve already called my (new) city council representative (reminding him that his seat was overturned primarily because of the stadium issue) and asked him not only to find the $1.1 million (preferably among the hundreds of millions we’re already giving for the stadium) for the bird-safe glass, but also to call Governor Dayton and ask him to replace Michele Kelm-Helgen as chair of the MSFA since she seems not to have Minnesota’s interests in mind at all. Not even a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of an interest.
And then I called the mayor of Minneapolis (also new), and then Governor Dayton himself.
I’ve also written to Minnesota Audubon, suggesting approaching a local foundation for a matching grant to raise the money locally (and possibly internationally—remember, this is a major bird migration path, used by birds from both Americas).
I am hoping the Vikings change their mind. If they don’t, I’m hoping that Minneapolis Audubon and Minnesota Audubon (and even national Audubon, who has brought a lot of attention to this), will organize some protests.
I will be there.