Costly NFL Stadium Upgrade Arms Race Provision in Vikings Stadium Bill #wilfare

Mike Kaszuba at the StarTribune points out a very dangerous piece of language in the current Vikings stadium bill. This is the kind of stuff that causes communities to sell hospitals in order to make debt payments on their pro sports stadiums:

The public will be legally obligated to maintain the stadium “in a manner that is first-class and consistent with comparable” National Football League stadiums — a clause that could translate into substantial future costs.

What does it take to be “first-class and consistent with comparable” with other NFL stadiums? Well, if the NFL convinces enough governments to agree to this language, the answer is an arms race.

Apparently, our elected officials don’t have their heads wrapped around this yet:

State officials scoff at the idea that they are exposing the public to any undue risk in Minneapolis. They say the public stadium authority likely would get $2 million a year in revenue in addition to the yearly operating money from the Vikings and city.

Let’s put it this way:

How many stadiums would need to install HD scoreboards like the one Dallas spent $40 million on in 2009 before that would be considered necessary for the stadium to be “first-class and consistent with comparable” National Football League stadiums? That $2 million/yr can be eaten up pretty fast with upgrades like that.

How many VIP parking ramp spaces at ~$20,000 per spot will be have to be added adjacent to the stadium over time in order to remain “first-class and consistent with comparable” National Football League stadiums?

If the stadium is built with a fixed roof, and other stadiums begin using new forms of retractable roof technology, how many stadiums would have to go down that path before Minnesota had to add a retractable roof in order to remain “first-class and consistent with comparable” National Football League stadiums?

What if the NFL stadium “standard” evolve to require wider seats (I think we can rule out narrower)? More seats? A different field? New standards in A/V equipment? New TVs in every executive suite? Faster access to major highways when leaving the stadium? More luxurious locker rooms? Will we be legally obligated to maintain the stadium “in a manner that is first-class and consistent with comparable” National Football League stadiums?

Sounds like a good deal for Zygi. It can’t hurt to ask. But it can hurt the public a LOT to actually grant this ridiculous demand.

As David Brauer pointed out on Twitter, we don’t have to look far to see how bad of a deal this can be for the public. We’re dealing with this right now with the Target Center, where the city is obligated to upgrade the facility at a tremendous cost to the public. Why? Because they are required to do so to remain competitive with NBA standards. Minneapolis property taxpayers current pay $5 million/yr to maintain the Target Center. That is scheduled to double to $10 million next year to cover the debt on Target Center upgrades.

Which, of course, puts Target Center in an arena arms race with Xcel, who’s hoping to get money from the state as part of the Vikings stadium bill to pay down Xcel debt, which will allow them to “remain competitive” as an NHL facility and compete for concerts with the Target Center.

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