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Opinion: Tap North Dakota's wealth to buy Vikings, build stadium

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FARGO - North Dakota should buy the Minnesota Vikings, or at least loan its eastern neighbor the cash needed to build a $1 billion stadium that would keep the team in the region.

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Ludicrous, you say? Well, let's consider all the facts.

Minnesota can't seem to figure out a funding formula to solve the stadium dilemma that won't either bankrupt the state or make a gambling addict of everyone.

Meanwhile, North Dakota has at least a billion dollars burning a hole in its britches - even after conservative state leaders have locked up hundreds of millions of dollars in barely touchable "rainy day" funds. Oil exploration continues to ramp up, pumping huge dollars into state coffers and the overall economy, and there are no signs of that slowing down.

North Dakota's purchase of the Minnesota Vikings is a grand opportunity for the Roughrider State. Consider these upsides:

• If the team and stadium moved to North Dakota, there would be no parking problems. Yes, the former ammunition plant in Arden Hills, Minn., has more parking-lot potential than downtown Minneapolis, but neither compare to just about anywhere in North Dakota when it comes to space and lack of traffic congestion.

• The massive stadium would be a great covered-space alternative when the eight annual home games aren't being played there. It could be used for grain storage in the winter and the state's "sandbag central" in the spring. If it was sealed tight, it could be used for floodwater retention.

• North Dakota lacks entertainment options, especially for all those young men working in the booming Oil Patch. If the games were played in North Dakota, it would give them somewhere to spend their money. Maybe a man camp could be incorporated into the design.

* Those with newfound oil riches could buy box seats or suites and invite their Twin Cities in-laws to the games just to rub it in a little. "We're thinking about renaming them the Oilers," they'd say as the team is introduced.

• South Dakota has Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills and Wall Drug. North Dakota has Medora, the Badlands and the Fargo Theatre. A $1 billion NFL football stadium would settle the better-state debate once and for all. Nothing attracts tourists like a man-made glass-and-steel shrine to overpaid athletes.

• A billion-dollar stadium seating 80,000 people might accommodate everyone wanting tickets to a renewed Bison-Sioux football rivalry game.

• Imagine the "cool factor" and positive press North Dakota would receive with such a bold move. As one of many states currently without a professional sports franchise, North Dakota would suddenly be the coolest kid on the block. Who needs to advertise for workers or businesses when the likes of ESPN and every national newspaper is constantly referencing your state in the context of the nation's most popular pastime? The state's population and tax money would double within 10 years.

All of the above scenarios are predicated on the team and stadium physically moving to North Dakota.

Of course, North Dakota could just loan Minnesota the money to build a new stadium, provided its residents get into games for free or have ownership stock in the franchise, much like Green Bay does with the Packers. The loan could stipulate that the team and stadium at least move a little closer to North Dakota to save its residents the time and gas to attend games. Rothsay might be a good choice, given its appropriate Scandinavian name. Or Alexandria, with that Kensington Runestone and all.

And what if Minnesota doesn't pay back its obligation on time under the agreed-upon terms?

Well, North Dakota, being the source of much of Minnesota's electricity, could simply turn off the lights until the bill's paid.

Matt Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The Morris Sun Tribune and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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