Proctor man seeks NFL in Duluth area
PROCTOR, Minn. - Proctor City Councilor Travis White wants to start the discussion on bringing a professional football team to the Northland. White's heard from the critics that it sounds like a harebrained, pie-in-the-sky idea. But he said he's ...
PROCTOR, Minn. – Proctor City Councilor Travis White wants to start the discussion on bringing a professional football team to the Northland.
White’s heard from the critics that it sounds like a harebrained, pie-in-the-sky idea. But he said he’s become a believer after researching the idea of whether the Northland could support an NFL team.
“It sounds out there, but it’s really not out there,” he said.
White plans to introduce two resolutions today at the city council’s meeting: to support the return an NFL team to the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., and to support construction of an outdoor stadium if an NFL team relocates to the area.
Those resolutions aren’t tying taxpayers to building a stadium or supporting the team financially, but instead, are meant to get the conversation started, he said. He hopes residents from the Twin Ports area attend the meeting to hear his argument before jumping to conclusions.
“Why not go for it?” he asked.
Bringing in a professional team is part of White’s “master vision” for economic growth in the region. People are often critical of a new idea that would create a change for an area, but after the idea is fully implemented, it would seem visionary in hindsight, he said. He argues that other U.S. states have two NFL teams and that Minnesota is large enough that it could support two teams.
“We can be more than a marathon and the Homegrown Music Festival. We can be more. Let’s just do it,” he said.
If a professional team was considered as a Lake Superior team rather than a Duluth team, it could unite the region from the Upper Peninsula through northern Minnesota and up into Canada, he said. He added, “We all claim Lake Superior. That’s our lake.”
However, other cities and towns in the region would need to get on board for the idea to take off, he said.
“Let’s as a community – Hermantown, Duluth, Proctor, Superior and all the surrounding area – why don’t we work together and present a proposal and say, ‘Hey, look at the history we have here and the benefits up here,’” he said.
Sometimes the area doesn’t act like it can compete on the same level as larger cities, he said. But he points to the rivalry between the University of Minnesota Gophers and the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs or the area hockey teams that compete at the high school hockey tournaments.
“I get the sense up here that we feel that we’re not on par with these big cities, but we have so much more we can offer that the big cities can’t offer,” he said. “We compete with big cities all the time. We need to quit thinking small and let’s think large.”
White argues that if the football team was in the AFC, it wouldn’t compete against the teams most area fans already support and it could therefore grow a fan base in the region. If not a professional football team, a baseball or a hockey team could be considered, he said.
The Twin Ports area also has open land where a stadium could be located with space for a business community to grow around it that would give the region an economic boost, he said.
An outdoor stadium would also provide a venue for other outdoor competitions and concerts with an atmosphere that the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium might not be able to provide. In addition, he said, the outdoor stadium would tap into northern Minnesota’s outdoor tourism.
“We’re a different breed than down there. We’re outdoors. We hunt, fish, motorcycle, snowmobile. … People come up here not to go to the Miller Hill Mall, they come up here because they want to go to Gooseberry Falls,” he said.
The idea to have a NFL team in the Twin Ports began when White was at a Green Bay Packers game when he was 11 years old. In addition to experiencing Lambeau Field’s outdoor atmosphere, he visited the Packers Hall of Fame, where he learned that Duluth was once the home of a professional football team named the Kelley Duluths before the name changed to the Eskimos. In the 1920s, the team was first in implementing a lot of practices that are common in the NFL today, but White says it’s not trumpeted enough by the region.
“Who in this area even knows any of this? Hardly anyone does,” he said.
A few years ago, he began jotting down every skeptical question that came to mind on why the area couldn’t support a professional team and began working on the solutions to each question.
“Instead of thinking about what could have been, think what could be. What’s stopping us from having this?” he asked.
If the resolutions don’t pass after the discussion today, the area isn’t worse off than it was before by discussing it, he said. He points out that even if people oppose the resolutions, at least they’re talking about it.
“Don’t tell me it’s impossible. Tell me what we can do to make it possible. The sky’s the limit,” he said.