The StarTribune’s latest editorial lobbying to spend the public’s money to subsidize Zygi Wilf’s business shows that they aren’t really interested in convincing the Vikings to stay in the current Metrodome, convincing business leaders to subsidize Wilf’s business, or convincing fans to pay for Zygi’s stadium. They just want the state and city to pick up what Zygi Wilf refuses to pay for his own stadium (and buy some of their land). Here’s a breakdown:
Minneapolis City Council members have a rare opportunity to make history by having the civic-minded fortitude to back a nearly $1 billion public-private investment that can pay dividends for the city and state for decades to come.
Minneapolis City Council members could make history by keeping downtown Minneapolis sales taxes at record high levels. They could force downtown residents and employees to pay not only those taxes on a daily basis, but to feel the pain of the $400 million hit the state would take if the city council went along with the state’s plan.
Without a clear signal that a majority of the 13-member council supports the current Vikings stadium proposal, however, opponents and fence-sitters at the Legislature will have the perfect excuse to ignore the politically sensitive issue during this election-year session.
Good. It’s a bad plan. Take a year to think about it.
Gov. Mark Dayton no doubt made that point when he met privately Monday with Council Members Kevin Reich and Sandra Colvin Roy, whose support could make the difference at City Hall and at the Capitol. We trust that Dayton also emphasized that the stadium deal now on the table includes the following benefits for the city:
The plan Dayton and the MN Building Trades presented to Kevin Reich and Sandra Colvin Roy was painfully misleading about the economic realities and public support for a Vikings stadium. Reich and Colvin Roy should do what’s best for their constituents, which means relying upon feedback from their constituents rather than misleading push polls.
To fund its $150 million initial contribution, the city would use some of the existing sales and hospitality tax revenue that currently funds the Minneapolis Convention Center, while redirecting some of that revenue for economic development, including renovation and debt payment on the city-owned Target Center. The arena has become a financial drain for city taxpayers, and this plan, by covering the $5 million a year needed to pay off the facility’s debt, offers a chance for much-needed property tax relief.
The city is already dealing with one professional sports stadium economic disaster: the Target Center. Minneapolis residents also pay for the bulk of the Twins stadium due to a Hennepin County tax Minneapolis residents didn’t get a chance to vote on. And now they are being asked to take on yet another subsidy on behalf of a professional sports team owner who’s unwilling to pay for his own business’ stadium. But, this one is the most expensive yet, with the fewest game days. And even worse deal.
City Council members concerned about political fallout need to cut through the often inaccurate antistadium rhetoric and educate their constituents. The city’s contribution to the stadium is a no-new-taxes approach that actually would result in property tax relief.
Few people are anti-stadium. They just oppose public funding for a stadium. That said, if the Vikings and Vikings fans are unwilling to pay for their own stadium, I guess that makes them anti-stadium.
Yes, the stadium plan could reduce property taxes by 2%. It would do that by shifting the tax burden to a combination of city and state taxes. Among the groups that would be paying increased taxes would be gambling addicts. Personally, the property tax break on my family’s home would come to $82.85. I’d rather pay that than contribute to extracting hundreds of millions of dollars from gambling addicts in the State of Minnesota. My property happens to be worth around double the city’s average property, so we can avoid increasing gambling addictions in the state for less than $4/month on average.
Noting that the Convention Center taxes were authorized by the Legislature, GOP legislators have threatened to end them after the center’s bonds are paid off in 2020. Legislation to fund the Vikings stadium would allow Minneapolis to maintain those taxes for another 25 years. The worst-case scenario for the city would be an empty Metrodome and ongoing debt woes for Target Center.
Maintaining a revenue source for a bad project is a bad idea. The worst case scenario of the Target Center is less than $10/month. The worst case scenario on the Metrodome is something our elected officials should have a serious conversation with the Vikings, Vikings fans, and local businesses who claim that the Vikings matter to them about. If those groups aren’t willing to pay for a new stadium, let’s keep using the Dome.
By committing to cover $150 million in construction costs, the city will do its part to secure a downtown Minneapolis investment of $427 million from the Vikings and $398 million from the state. (In addition, the team would pay $327 million in operating costs, while the city would cover another $189 million over 30 years.)
The editorial does not mention the net return to the city from this gift to Zygi Wilf.
The City Council can make a strategic investment in the 65,000-square-foot stadium — much like the Hennepin County Board did with Target Field and the Warehouse District — and give new life to the east end of a downtown that serves as the region’s most important economic engine.
We already have the Metrodome. Replacing it with a new stadium will not create “new life”. Stadiums are dead zones. The designs call for that, by requiring parking and an empty plaza rather than new downtown housing and new businesses including retail at a major LRT hub.
Plans call for a large public plaza, a block for tailgating and other amenities — all closely tied to the expanding light-rail system.
Nearly 355 days of emptiness next to an LRT hub.
With thoughtful urban planning and additional private investment, the new facility can do for Minneapolis what Lucas Oil Stadium has done for Indianapolis.
I’ve been to Indianapolis and past Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s a dead zone similar to what the Metrodome is today. I wouldn’t expect anything different from a new stadium. In fact, based on the increased footprint that shifts currently taxable land off the tax rolls (thus shifting a tax burden to other city property owners), I’d expect less.
(Disclosure: The stadium site plan includes a block owned by the Star Tribune, and the value of other property owned by the newspaper near the Metrodome is likely to increase if the project is approved.)
If they turn their backs on the Vikings, the City Council will need to answer to constituents who are desperate to fill some of the 13,000 construction and service-sector jobs that would pay an estimated $300 million in wages over the next four years. Beyond those benefits, business leaders are quick to point out that major-league sports help them recruit top talent to the Twin Cities.
The StarTribune is claiming that the stadium would create nearly twice as many jobs as even the Vikings claim, which puts the Strib’s claim around 20X more than reality, by my calculations. Here’s how the Strib could determine that their own numbers make no sense. If you divide $300 million by 4 years by 13,000 construction and service-sector jobs, one can see that the average annual salary of those jobs would have to be $5,769 with no benefits. Put another way, for the StarTribune’s inflated figures to make sense, the average construction and service-sector job of the 13,000 the Strib claims this project would create would have to pay $2.77/hr with no benefits.
A commenter at the Strib named Alanson also looked at the Strib’s ridiculous jobs claims:
Please stop repeating the nonsense about 13,000 jobs for four years being supported by $300 million. Do the math. That’s $75 million a year. $75 million per year divided by 13,000 jobs is less than $6,000 per year per job. Those are either very bad jobs or very intermittent jobs. A better number for the number of jobs supported by $75 million per year would be about 1,000 (if we are lucky).
City Council members should not be asked to defend the economics of professional sports.
Correct. Instead, they should reject them.
The unfortunate reality is that public subsidies are almost always the price of admission for cities that want to attract or retain major-league teams.
True. Justify them.
To its credit, the Wilf family has refrained from threatening to move the team
Perhaps it’s because he’s afraid that people would say “Go!”
, and the NFL clearly wants the franchise in this market.
The NFL makes a ton of money in MN with the Vikings playing in the Metrodome. The money is in TV.
But after nearly a decade of lobbying
The Vikings’ lease only expired 2 months ago (or, has 10 months to go, depending on how you read the contract) so looking at how long the team has been lobbying is nothing but a regurgitation of a Vikings lobbyist talking point rather than an honest look at the situation.
and countless pledges from public officials that they would work with the team to secure its future — time is running out.
Working with the team doesn’t mean meeting the team’s demands to the detriment of the public. Public officials represent the public. Wilf represents Wilf. Both need to do what’s best for themselves. And, Vikings fans should do what’s best for themselves. If none of those groups are willing to come up with the cash to pay for a new stadium, we can continue to use the existing, paid-for, new field, new roof Metrodome.
By moving quickly to join forces with Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barb Johnson, council members would remove a key obstacle to the project at the State Capitol and put the pressure back on the Legislature before it’s too late.
The city is obligated to uphold the city charter, which states that the residents have a right to vote on spending more than $10 million on a professional sports stadium. If Rybak and the city council come up with a plan to build a new stadium that’s good for the city, they should have no problem selling it to voters. But, the current plan would have no shot of passing a referendum since it’s a bad deal for the city and state (which city residents happen to belong to as well).
Or, as nomeds wrote in the StarTribune comments:
ROFLMAO! Who wrote this dribble? The city council is answering their constituents by following the law and letting the residents of Mpls decide. It isn’t for the city council to decide. Why are the easiest things so hard to understand?
Frankly, it would be cheaper for the state or city buy the StarTribune’s land and turn it into a tailgating plaza for the current Metrodome than buy into what the Strib is selling in this misleading editorial. Perhaps that should be done for the 2012-13 season as a way to convince the Strib to editorialize on behalf of the public rather than Zygi Wilf’s checking account?
Update: Rossberg got to the bottom of this issue in a comment at the StarTribune:
This has nothing to do with civic-mindedness or any other feel-good drivel. This is about needing the City Council to sell out their constituents’ rights in order to provide political cover for a Mayor who should never have made a proposal without the council’s approval and in violation of the city charter and a Governor who should have never accepted it. They’re only looking for a politically expedient way to override the charter amendment explicitly preventing this kind of expense without a referendum. Since the charter amendment speaks for itself and doesn’t require any Council approval the best solution is for the Council to just stay out of it and not have a vote. Let’s see if the Rybak and Dayton have the political will to override the amendment on their own and jam this down the throats of the Minneapolis residents without having others take the political heat on their behalf or if their bravery only extends as far as having secret meetings with individual council members whom they feel may be pliable.