February 19, 2012

Building a football stadium: corporate welfare at its most grotesque

Filed under: Football, Government, Media, Politics, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:07

Patrick Reusse writes for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He’s a sports columnist, so his job — to some degree anyway — depends on the local professional sports teams (the Vikings, the Twins, the Wild, and the Timberwolves) sticking around and being competitive. Part of the sticking around these days is finding a new home for the Minnesota Vikings, who are at the end of their 30-year lease on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. Reusse is critical of those who don’t want their tax money going into the pockets of billionaire owner Zygi Wilf:

We so easily could be another decayed downtown, if not for the corporations, and the law firms and the accounting firms, and the retailers that remain committed to being in the city, when everything could be cheaper and more convenient by joining the sprawl in Maple Grove or Eden Prairie or Eagan.

Last month, Sandra Colvin Roy, another of the dedicated lefties on the Minneapolis City Council, announced opposition to the plan for a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis without a citywide referendum (that she knows would fail).

[. . .]

And yet it’s not only Roy and her lefty colleagues who offer a roadblock to Minneapolis coming up with its stadium share. There are righties in the Legislature with equally mysterious thoughts on the city’s entertainment tax.

“You know who pays for this?” Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth said. “The citizens in my district, my constituents that decide to go to Minneapolis, maybe go out to a restaurant for the night.”

Some way, we have wound up with politicians who would put the cleaver to a great asset for the state’s largest city, and then offer the silliest of explanations, like 1) several score of people sleeping outside on government property, and 2) a few guys from Plymouth who would rather not pay an extra 3 percent for a Dewars and water at the Seville.

What stands in the way of a stronger heartbeat for downtown Minneapolis are the collections of the nearsighted that we have elected.

As you’ll know if you’ve read the blog for any length of time, I’m a big fan of the Minnesota Vikings, despite never having lived there or even visited the state. I’d be very upset if they became the L.A. Vikings. But I also totally sympathize with Minnesotans who don’t want their taxes being used to give corporate welfare to the billionaire owner of the football club. Pouring money into facilities for professional sports teams is one of the very worst ways to use tax dollars, as the lads at Reason.tv explain:

And from an article last year at Hit & Run:

To put it bluntly, regardless of how much money the state treasury might be rolling in, a public stadium is not a good use of money. Indeed, sports economists Dennis Coates and Brad Humphries estimate the presence of a major-league franchise reduces overall GDP by about $40 per resident in a given metro area.

The Vikes’ ownership has graciously offered to put up $400 million and the state is looking at ponying up $300 million, which means county and local taxpayers (read: suckers) would be on the hook for the remaining $400 million. So generous of the owners, don’t you think? Needless to say, the team would get all naming rights and a host of other related goodies.

[. . .]

Here’s a real surprise: Almost 75 percent of local residents don’t think public money should be used for a new stadium but the folks literally invested in the team and the building of the stadium are all for it!

1 Comment

  1. I have never been one to believe in corporate welfare. I would say that a smart government would provide tax breaks instead. I mean, if you are collecting nothing because they left then collecting nothing for a few years is easy to pass off. Give them a break on local tax as well as state tax with respect to the building of the facility as well as the property tax. And if they leave, well, look at the Winnipeg Jets move back in the 90’s. The government would have been better off finding a way to help the Jets stay then let them leave. The city lost revenue, the province lost revenue and the country lost revenue when the employment that was the Jets left. Not to mention the money that is made when a team comes to town for a game. Ah well, sports economy, it is never easy to figure out.

    Comment by Dwayne — February 19, 2012 @ 22:42

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