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Secrecy reigns in stadium naming rights

Last month, the Minnesota Vikings and U.S. Bank announced that the bank would have naming rights to the new Vikings stadium currently under construction.
What wasn’t revealed was how much U.S. Bank paid for those rights, which gives it the opportunity to plaster its logo on everything from tickets to the stadium itself. Speculation is that the bank paid upwards of $220 million. A U.S. Bank rep told the Star Tribune that estimate is on the high side, but would not disclose how much was actually paid.
The funding of the stadium came from a complex mix of public funding from the state and the city of Minneapolis, and a contribution from the Vikings. The stadium itself is technically owned and operated by a sports authority commission appointed by the state and the city of Minneapolis.
The trend in sports — at both the college and professional levels — have been to allow the teams to sell stadium naming rights as a mechanism to help fund their share of the stadium’s costs.
Let’s be clear: the Minnesota Vikings stadium is a publicly owned facility. Its financing and operation should be open to the scrutiny of taxpayers.
That’s why the sports authority should have had equal, if not more, say in the naming of the stadium. And that’s why the financial details of the naming rights package should have been made public.
An article in the July 27 Star Tribune explores the issue of naming rights.
Along with noting the lack of disclosure when it comes to naming rights deals, it also noted that for the most part, the public doesn’t care. When the new stadium opens, the fans who fill it will be oohing and aahing over it; they won’t care where the money came from, or how much it’s really costing them.
That’s sad, because it points out what a dominant role professional sports has come to play in our lives. So much so that watching football players who make more money in a single season than most of us will make over lifetime has become more important that fiscal responsibility and accountability.     
The out-of-control costs to provide sports entertainment is becoming alarming. It’s time to rein in the overspending — both on the field and for the field.