Local view: Vikings stadium was, and still is, a strategic opportunity for DuluthThe case for Duluth as the new home for a Vikings stadium was and is a compelling one. Aside from the obvious historical roots with the Duluth Eskimos, the team credited with saving the NFL in the 1920s, there has been real value in making the effort, value many seemed to miss.
By: Joe Reasbeck, Duluth News Tribune
The case for Duluth as the new home for a Vikings stadium was and is a compelling one. Aside from the obvious historical roots with the Duluth Eskimos, the team credited with saving the NFL in the 1920s, there has been real value in making the effort, value many seemed to miss.
Like Butler University, which reportedly reaped more than $639 million in publicity during last year’s NCAA basketball tournament, Duluth has grabbed priceless attention. Simply from making the proposal, Duluth landed on NFL fan websites nationwide, and the story was carried in several international newspapers. The Toronto Sun even made it sound like, despite the distance, Duluth had a real shot because of our historical ties to the NFL. How many people worldwide went and looked up Duluth on Google as a result? Duluth can’t buy that kind of publicity. And let’s not forget the impact of the panoramic images of Lake Superior and the Twin Ports harbor that were sent out to the world via the NFL.
Some leaders in Duluth were skeptical the community could come up with local funding for a stadium; they determined the project wasn’t viable in Duluth.
However, considering the site targeted was 500 acres, perhaps we could have been thinking bigger than just a stadium. Perhaps we still need to.
What if there were private sources of capital involved? How about the stadium, or some other development, as an anchor tenant to a larger entertainment complex with technology underpinnings?
We’ve known for some time the Twin Ports is being evaluated for large enterprise-sized data centers, potentially billion-dollar builds in their own right. Mayor Don Ness advocated for such on public radio. I think one of the questions we should be asking is how we could involve these companies into some sort of joint project. Today, modern stadiums, and other potential users of our open land, have increasingly robust needs for high-speed Internet and data processing. As we switch to Internet protocol delivery of media, these needs will escalate.
And tech companies have idle cash. Apple has $100 billion, Google $50 billion, Cisco $48 billion, Microsoft $52 billion, Intel $15 billion, IBM $12 billion, Oracle $32 billion, and the list continues. If we put together the right pitch, any of these companies could stroke the check.
Especially if we could add a green component to the effort; Google, in particular, is making considerable investments in green applications and green, carbon-neutral data centers. Such environmentally friendly projects would tie in nicely with high-speed rail to Duluth.
It should be noted that this winter Manitoba emerged as possibly being interested in investing with Minnesota to connect Winnipeg (metro population of 750,000) and Minneapolis (metro population of 3.3 million) via a Northern Lights Express-like, high-speed rail project. Such a link would, in essence, provide the beginnings of a high-speed, transcontinental rail network. Imagine Duluth to Winnipeg as the international connection and the Twin Ports metro as the hub.
If we are to assume the Vikings are an asset to the state and the building of a billion-
dollar stadium is an effort to maximize the benefit of this statewide asset, then Duluth has a very persuasive argument for maximizing the strategic placement of that investment, even if Minneapolis is the front-runner.
A green-tech Vikings stadium in Duluth could be a catalyst and linchpin to a successful high-speed rail route between Duluth and the Twin Cities. The possibility of that potent combination would be enticing to a green data center investment from Google and other like-minded tech companies.
As we push deeper into the transition to mobile computing and the cloud, Google is very aware it must continue to add substance to its reputation as an environmentally friendly company. It wouldn’t be a stretch to involve Google in a green stadium and green transportation package.
Put the pieces together.
Granted, it takes vision and planning, but the benefits to Duluth and the state of Minnesota could be massive. There has been real value to the effort so far — and there still is.
Joe Reasbeck is an author and technology consultant in the Twin Ports.