Then and Now: Business Community Contributions to a Vikings Stadium #wilfare

The latest Vikings stadium financing scheme includes, potentially, the contribution of money from local businesses. But, as Tom Scheck has tweeted, our local business leaders don’t appear to be all that interested in leading on this issue:

It sounds like they’d prefer to socialize the costs, then spend money at a stadium (or to slap their logo on the stadium) which allows Zygi Wilf to privatize the profits.

Stadium financing hasn’t always worked that way. As I’ve mentioned before, dozens of downtown Minneapolis businesses put real money into helping acquire the land where the Metrodome sits today. They put real skin into the game rather than testify about how valuable a new NFL stadium would be to them (unless it means actually paying for it).

Back in the pre-Metrodome days, a local newspaper called the Minneapolis Star & Tribune Company was a major cheerleader for building a stadium downtown to replace the Met out in Bloomington where the MOA sits now. One major difference between than and now: the StarTribune was the largest private donor to helping get the Metrodome built.

John Cowles explained why the StarTribune was such a large FINANCIAL supporter of the project in Amy Klobuchar’s book, Uncovering the Dome:

StarTribune Contribution to Metrodome

Cowles regarding why it was important for the Strib to be a major (actually, the major) private donor toward financing the stadium:

That’s one of the reasons I felt the company should be among the leaders in putting cash into the project,” explained Cowles, “. . . so that people wouldn’t think we were backing a downtown stadium just in order to have the value of our real estate increase.”

How times have changed.

Thirty years later, we’re building a stadium for 6X the cost with 1/3 as many major sports, doing so without support from local businesses, while having the people pay for it while letting a guy in NJ sell and keep the revenue from naming rights. Why are we doing this? Because a guy in New Jersey thinks his business will make more money if the public spends $550m subsidizing a new stadium for him (which ends up coming to around $1.6 billion over 30 years after interest on the debt, ongoing operating costs, capital improvements, etc.)

This does not sound like a good deal to me. If local businesses showed some local leadership by offering to put some money into a project they claim to value, the numbers would make more sense than they do today? But, it they’re not willing to, why should Minneapolis residents be willing to tax themselves $675 million over 30 years?

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