I’m a Vikings fan. I’ve been following the political wrangling surrounding the new stadium that the Vikings’ owner, Zygi Wilf, has been trying to get built. As is sometimes the case, there are naysayers that are dissatisfied with some aspect of the project. But, the naysayers usually complain about the project itself, not the moral character of the proponent. That could be a problem.
The Vikings’ new stadium was just approved by the Minneapolis Planning Commission and is headed to a full vote of the City Council at the end of the month. The proposed stadium has a price tag of $975 million. And, it does look pretty cool.
What I find interesting is not so much the opposition to the project, but the basis for the naysayers’ opposition. Just as the vote was before the Planning Commission, a New Jersey judge ruled that Zygi Wilf and his family’s real estate business had committed fraud, breached contracts, and violated the state’s civil racketeering statutes in a 20 year old real estate deal. Yes, a 20 year old case. The recent trial involved more than 120 days of testimony. Mr. Wilf was on the stand for more than three weeks.
The court’s ruling is providing the naysayers with additional ammunition to challenge the new stadium project. Minnesota’s Governor is now questioning Mr. Wilf’s business ethics. Political candidates, including those that sit on the Planning Commission, are also expressing concerns about Mr. Wilf’s business dealings.
Getting a project off the ground is hard enough, with financing, government approval, and negotiating contracts. Throwing in questions about the project’s proponent’s moral character could prove too much for a project to move forward.