The tale of two franchises


One is at its greatest height and ascending, the other has never seen greater lows and is headed for a toxic dump.

Yes, that’s the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings.

This past week, both NFL franchises announced construction plans – the Packers announcing options for adding up to 10,000 seats to historic Lambeau Field, while the Vikes considered two options for building anew in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

The Packers went directly to the people, as they should – the team is the only publicly-owned franchise in the league – while the Vikes bickered between two entities, government officials in Ramsey County and the northern suburb of Arden Hills, and the city of Minneapolis.

For the Vikes, the fight has begun, and it seems to be superseding any of the more important issues facing the majority of other league franchises – such as the settlement of the collective bargaining agreement and finding quality players through the draft to fill their ranks.

No, the Vikes are simply trying to find a place to live. You see, the Vikes don’t want to play in the – what’s-it-called-again? The HHH Humptydome? The Mall of  America Field? The bursted bubble bastion of Hell?

Whatever it is, they don’t want to play in the dome, but really have no viable option at this point. Yes, they could play at the University of Minnesota’s brand new field while a new stadium is being built, but that would mean fewer seats to sell and, God forbid, playing outdoors!

So, in the meantime, both plans for new ballparks ranging upward of $1 billion were presented this past week. The artist’s renderings are beautiful, but you can  only put so much lipstick on a pig.

The Vikings certainly weren’t thrilled with the announcement of the proposal which would call for the building of new digs on the site of the Metrodome. Number one, the question of where they would play during construction loomed large. The Vikings were so unimpressed that they didn’t even have a representative at the press conference announcing the proposal.

And so it seems the Vikings are leaning toward the move from Minneapolis to Arden Hills – a much more comfortable move, as many say, than than the 1,700-mile move to Los Angeles that has been rumored.

Either way, it’s going to cost. In Arden Hills, the proposal would cost taxpayers one-half cent for the next bazillion years, something that in these times probably wouldn’t go over so well. In the end, it would also cost about $1 billion – can anyone say Jerry Jones?

The question is this: Is it worth it?

Well, if Vikings fans, officials and residents of Minnesota can learn a lesson, all they need to do is look east – toward Green Bay. They did it right the last time and seem to be doing it right at this point.

Back just after they won the Super Bowl in 1996 and should have won another in 1997, the team decided it needed an upgrade to its aging Lambeau Field. They huddled, finalized an affordable plan to upgrade and “retro-fit” the stadium, and went out with their promotion team to sell it. They put it to a vote and got 60 percent of the people to go along with them.

The result? A new facility that is still the envy of the NFL and the building blocks for another championship that fell into place just this past year.

Putting their thinking caps on again, it seems the Packers brass have hit home. They’ve come up with a plan to revitalize the hallowed field. They’ve gone to the people with a survey outlining several options that would add 10,000 seats and included the moderate cost options … again, another brilliant sell job.

No doubt, this effort will be successful. Number one: The need. Number two: Timing.

As for the need … it’s clear that the south end zone has been a dead zone for years, primed for development. There is room in that part of the stadium and with the improvements this year to the sound and video elements of the Lambeau experience, the addition of more seating and options on that end of the stadium will be a huge plus.

Timing, of course, is crucial. The Packers have just won the coveted Lombardi trophy; interest, enthusiasm and rabid love of the team is at an all-time high. Needless to say, now is the time to lift the Packers and their loved facility to even greater heights.

On the flip side, the Vikings to the west are facing the proverbial fourth down. Just two seasons ago, the team, behind former Packers great Brett Favre, were on the precipice of a Super Bowl – a game they no doubt would have won going away. Talk of a new stadium – the house the Brett built – was everywhere.

Then came the interception, the dejection and the rejection. The team spiraled to its worst finish in years, Brett was run out of town and now they need that stadium more than ever … but who’s going to support it?

Plans are grandiose in the land of lakes, but with money tight, confidence low, and two competing plans that have Viking brass looking grim, the picture couldn’t be more bleak.

It is indeed a tale of two franchises.

Maybe the shores of the Pacific loom larger in Minnesota than we all think.