Tom Dennis of the Grand Folks Herald has penned one of the the weakest arguments in favor of Vikings stadium Wilfare that I’ve seen written in an actual newspaper. He attempts to make a “sure, stadiums are economic losers, but money isn’t everything” argument, but uses examples that show otherwise. For example, he looks at Green Bay:
So, what can explain Green Bay’s support of Lambeau Field, home of the Packers? Why did Brown County, Wis., voters agree to a half-cent sales-tax increase in 2000 to pay for a $300 million renovation? Why did more than 100,000 new shareholders agree to buy $200-a-share stock — stock that doesn’t pay dividends, offers no season-ticket advantages and can’t rise in value — to raise more than $20 million for the renovation? Why is a similar stock sale that’s going on right now expected to raise $60 million more for another renovation?
The answer is obvious: Money isn’t everything. Green Bay derives enormous pleasure from the Packers, so much so that residents not only tax themselves but also donate (via buying “stock”) huge sums to the team.
No. Money isn’t everything, but there are some glaring differences between how Green Bay has continued to fund renovations to Lambeau Field and how Zygi Wilf is attempting to extract wealth from our community.
1. Green Bay fans willingly buy “stock” that they know has no value. It’s a $200 piece of pride in their team that they’re willing to provide. Vikings fans have not offered to do this. It’s not the public’s job to make up for the lack of financial support shown by Vikings fans compared to Packers fans.
2. The tax paid by Brown County residents to help fund stadium renovations was – get this – put to a vote! And it passed! As we know from recent polls, there is nearly no chance that a state-wide vote, a Minneapolis city charter vote, or a Ramsey County vote to increase taxes for Zygi Wilf’s benefit would pass. In fact, it would likely go down in flames since Minnesotans know that Zygi doesn’t need our money, and the state, City of Minneapolis, and Ramsey County all have much larger priorities than subsidizing an NFL franchise.
And, again, if fans aren’t willing to pay their own money to “save” their team, why should the general public make up the difference?
Dennis goes on:
In other words, it’s not the politicians in this case, it’s the voters who are “begging” to give the team “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“Begging” to spend other people’s money is not a sign of support. Spending one’s own money is a sign of support. If the Vikings are only valuable enough to fans to “save” them by spending other people’s money, they must not be that valuable to fans. One can see why. Even hardcore Vikings fans must realize that it’s ridiculous for the public to subsidize every Vikings game ticket with $44 of the public’s money.
The benefits those voters derive may be abstract — that is, not measurable in dollars and cents.
No. You can measure the value of those abstract benefits. That’s what prices do. If you asked fans if they would be willing to spend $44 more per ticket per game for the next three decades, they’d say no (some would say yes, but you’d need EVERYONE to say no to have the money Wilf is demanding). If you asked fans if they would be willing to write checks for $10,000 per seat to buy Personal Seat Licenses, the answer would be no. Which goes to show that the benefits do not match the costs. Which is not a problem the public needs to solve. It’s a problem that Zygi Wilf, the NFL, and Vikings fans should address.
So, why on Earth hasn’t a Legislature dominated by conservative Republicans laughed in Zygi Wilf’s face? Why is there any talk whatsoever of a deal, let alone one that would demand $150 million from Minneapolis and $398 million from the state?
Because Minnesotans — in the opinion of their duly-elected lawmakers — enjoy pro sports teams enough to pay for them, even without the promise of economic profit or a guaranteed return.
No. They. Don’t. If Vikings fans enjoyed pro sports teams enough to pay for them, the legislature wouldn’t need to be involved. Wilf could just ask Vikings fans to buy fake stock, or he could jack up ticket prices as far as he needs to hit his personal profitability goals. Fans are unwilling to pay. Fans and non-fans alike agree that spending the public’s money on this is not justifiable. But, people opposed to spending the public’s money on a stadium do not have a team of lobbyists at the capital working to convince lawmakers to do the wrong thing.