Who Spent State Money on Stadiums

Three of the five significant gubenatorial candidates were in the MN State Legislature at the time the Twins and Gopher stadiums were funded with our tax dollars. Money was wasted. Who wasted it? Here is how they voted:

Twin Stadium Funding
Margaret Anderson Kelliher: FOR
Matt Entenza: FOR
Tom Emmer: AGAINST

Gopher Stadium Funding
Margaret Anderson Kelliher: FOR
Matt Entenza: FOR
Tom Emmer: AGAINST

Tom Horner and Mark Dayton don’t have a voting record to compare here. However, in a piece on MinnPost, Jay Weiner looked into where candidates may stand on yet another sports stadium. This time for the Vikings. First, with Emmer:

If the Republican candidate for governor wins, his no-new-taxes, reduce-government penchant — like that of Gov. Pawlenty — could stall any effort to finance a stadium with any sort of public participation.

Emmer has pledged to make Pawlenty look like a spent-thrift. Heck Pawlenty signed the stadium bills while cutting funding for health care, education, and local government aid. Emmer has been getting a ton of well deserved heat for claiming to have a plan to cut a significant chunk out of the state budget, while failing to explain what he’d cut. However, I think I can trust Emmer on this one. Should he be elected, I doubt he’d be willing to sign a Vikings stadium bill. That doesn’t mean that a bill wouldn’t pass, but it would be much more difficult without the governor’s support.

Weiner also pegs Mark Dayton as a no state tax dollars for stadiums kind of guy:

(But then, if Mark Dayton were to beat Kelliher in the DFL primary, the Vikings could also be in a world of hurt.)

On the pro-give-money to Zygi Wilf side of things are Kelliher, Entenza, and Horner.

Your Tax Dollars for a New Jersey Billionaire Scorecard

Mark Dayton: AGAINST
Tom Emmer: AGAINST
Matt Entenza: FOR
Tom Horner: FOR
Margaret Anderson Kelliher: FOR

But, what if stadiums are a good investment? What if the money that goes into building them comes back many times over due to increases in jobs and commerce? Entenza, Horner, and Kelliher would then be on the right side of this issue.

Sadly, we know that public funding of stadiums is not a sound investment. Why? Because, if it was, that’s exactly how projects like this would be sold to the public. Heck, even Tom Emmer would probably be willing to support using state tax dollars to fund a stadium if a case could be made for a positive return on investment. But that’s not the case, so rational arguments are ditched in favor of emotional ones.

12 thoughts on “Who Spent State Money on Stadiums”

  1. I don’t buy the idea that tax money for money stadiums is not a good investment. Not everything is about $$$. Tax money for libraries brings a high return on investment, so does theater, arts, mass transit, schools, parks, etc. IMO thinking of investment solely in terms of $$$ is shortsighted and ridiculous.

  2. For the local businesses in downtown and probably throughout the metro area, I would imagine this is a good investment. The farther you are from the stadiums, probably the less likely you are to get any return.

    Any objective data on this? Probably hard to measure but do we know how much the Twins pay back in taxes or how much revenue this brings in for businesses in Minnesota? Does the stadium ever end up paying for itself?

  3. @Moe, elected officials are spending our money. It is all about money. That doesn’t mean that every investment has to have a positive ROI, but the case for stadiums seems to be purely a case of entertainment. Minnesotans don’t suffer from a lack of things to do without public financed stadiums. The other things you mentioned have more agreed upon contributions to the public good, such as education, improved health (parks), and transportation. Publicly subsidized sedentary entertainment with no educational value seems like a ridiculous use of tax dollars to me. If people want pro sports, they should be willing to pay for them through the cost of tickets or other revenue generation opportunities. I believe this would come to around $10 per ticket on every Twins ticket for the first 20 years. Too much? Exactly.

    @Paul, what I can gather as the consensus among economists is that the economic benefit of stadiums comes at the expense of other things people could spend money on in the state. If they weren’t going to the game, they’d still spend money in the state. The warehouse district of Minneapolis may (may) benefit due to money coming into that area rather than being spent on other activities around the state and metro, but look at how many venues the Metrodome managed to support within walking distance with the Twins, Vikings, Gopher football, high school state championships, monster truck, and concerts.

  4. @Ed you make a good point about asking people to pay for pro sports through ticket prices. Tickets here in MN are relatively cheap compared to say… the Yankees, who ask much much more per seat (looks like even some of the non-premium seats go up to $300 each, and that stadium was also heavily supported by taxes). I consider myself a Minnesota sports fan in general (mostly the Twins), and probably go to 5-10 games/year. Personally, I would have no problem paying a little extra for the new stadium… but I agree that it shouldn’t come from taxpayer money.

  5. @Ed

    Tom Emmer is against public funding, not against public funding for stadiums.

    Giving him credit for being against the stadium is like giving a vegetarian credit for not eating pork. You could put beef and pork in front of a vegetarian and they would eat neither. It’s not about a discerning pallet it’s about them not eating meat.

    Put a bill that spends taxpayer dollars on virtually anything and Tom Emmer and he would vote against it. Just sayin’

  6. I am not against public funding of stadiums, just against public funding of private organizations headquarters.

    The problem with the ROI aspect of publicly funded stadiums is agreeing on the value of “goodwill”.

  7. @Matt, people can agree upon an outcome without necessarily agreeing upon the justifications. I happen to be on Emmer’s side of this issue, but as you can see, I get their via different logic.

    While Emmer claims to be no fan of government programs, the most aggressive (but not itemized) proposal out of the guy only cuts around 20% of the state’s budget. Could one say that Emmer thinks that 80% of state spending in Minnesota is justified?

    @ryan l, good point on who owns the stadiums. Clearly, if a plan was structured in a way that the state owned and/or profited from the stadium, I’d be willing to support the plan. But that’s not what team owners ask for, or what our elected officials tend to give them.

  8. Wasted Tax Money Part 3
    We wanted to say thank you for all the emails and reports of wasted tax money by our Minnesota Politicians. What should get you mad is why they are asking for more when they are spending it on pork projects!
    The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul don’t even have enough money for snow plowing.
    Here is Part 3 of our list of your money going for things that we don’t need or wasted tax dollars at work

    The total amount for this list is $1,318,600.00

    · The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded over $600,000 to the Minnesota Zoo to create a wolf “avatar” video game called “WolfQuest.”
    · A theatre named after Che Guevara putting on “socially conscious” puppet shows ($25,000)
    · Studying why deleting a gene can create sex reversal in people, but not in mice in Minnesota ($190,000)
    · Woodbury has allocated more than $2.3 million to upgrade its heating systems at a local ice rink, using $503,900 in stimulus funding.

    Here is a list of YOUR politicians and what they are thinking about doing with your money.

    · Rep. Michael Paymar (D-St. Paul) wants to pile enormous tax increases on beverages containing alcohol. He would raise taxes on metric sales beverages by the following percentages: distilled spirits (up 228%); wine (up 450%); hard cider (up 800%); regular beer (up 790%); and 3.2% beer (up 457%).
    · Rep. Rick Hansen (D-South Saint Paul) wants to raise fees on deer hunters.
    · If you earn $36,000, then some House Democrats think you are rich enough to start losing an exemption they would provide for the proposed new DFL sales tax on clothes. Rep. Melissa Hortman (D-Brooklyn Park)
    · Rep. Tony Sertich (D-Chisholm) wants to raise the sales tax by at least $17 million to pay more for the arts and for natural resources projects.

    Our next story coming out mid week will deal with the COST of Light Rail and what it really is going to cost you. We are at a $1 billion proposal to link St. Paul and Minneapolis.

  9. @mark, I think your arguments would be stronger if you looked at the cost and benefit rather than just the cost. For example, the Woodbury ice rink example you cite looks a bit different when one considers that the investment will actually save the city of Woodbury more than $1 million over the next 20 years.

    Regarding LRT, I’d like to see similar analysis from you. LRT isn’t cheap, or likely self-sustainable financially, but building and maintaining roads isn’t either.

    Also, in the future, try to keep your comments a bit more on topic. It’s also pretty darn lazy of you to copy/paste your blog post as a comment here. You can do better.

  10. Ed, We answered your comment on our blog, but here it is
    Ed, Thank you for your comment. You do have a good point, but we believe most of what we post is waste without explaining. Re: Woodbury and the ice rink. Bob Klatt, city parks and recreation director, said Woodbury expects $1 million in energy savings over 20 years. That should be achieved by eliminating the use of natural gas, reducing electricity use and cutting back operational costs because the new system is automated. What he does not tell us is the savings of using Solar Power vs Geothermal, The cost of Solar Power is half the price with the same amount of savings. Your point about a good investment or as we put it ROI Return on Investment is well taken and will be used in future stories.
    As far as the copy and paste, we had to laugh when we saw what you wrote. It’s marketing, and it works for you as well as us.

  11. @mark, if the numbers support the investment, it may be marketing to let people know, but it also sounds like a sound investment. Marketing, in this case, is helping people understand the facts. That’s good stuff.

    Regarding solar vs. geothermal, again, supporting your statements would be helpful. For example, do you have a link? I have no idea whether you’re right or wrong. But, based on what we know about the project that was approved, the tax dollars invested appear to be worth it, which make me wonder why you’re using it as an example of waste.

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