Thursday, May 25, 2006

Please Talk with Each Other

As a sports fan I have very mixed emotions regarding the construction of new sports stadiums when tax money is involved. Here in Minnesota the public debate has been dominated for years but the "need" for new stadiums to be built for the -- Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, and the University of Minnesota Gophers (the "U"). While I am not an alum of the "U" I do love college football and I love my adopted state of Minnesota so I would write a personal check to help the U build a new stadium just like I would for my beloved Iowa State University Cyclones -- their respective conferences are the "BIG" 10 and "BIG" 12 not the "SMALL 10 and 12". Football IS a big deal in these conferences especially with the University of Michigan regularly having over 100,000 fans attend their football games, fans that CHOOSE to attend the games by voting with their feet and wallets.

Now stadiums for our Vikings and Twins are a bit different scenario than for the Gophers. During the 2006 Minnesota legislative session legislators approved a bill to create a stadium authority responsible for building an outdoor/open air baseball stadium for the Twins. The Vikings made a last minute "me too" lobbying push to have an open air football stadium added to the Twins' legislation which ultimately failed so the Vikings must wait for the 2007 session.

The problem here of course is that years ago Minnesota's leaders created the "Metrodome" which I call the "city morgue" since it has all the aesthetic appeal of toe tags and big drawers :) From an economic development argument standpoint the "Dome" is a complete failure since the only economic growth in the area around the Dome is "Hubert's" , a local sports bar. The new Twins stadium in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis will primarily be built using a local option sales tax for residents of Hennepin County amounting to 3 cents on a $20 purchase. Now as a resident of Dakota County I can easily support such a funding mechanism from a selfish standpoint although I will pay my share when I utilize the stadium for a game or concert.

Since the Vikings' stadium dreams are still pending I want to offer some advice - SIT DOWN WITH THE MALL OF AMERICA TO CUT A DEAL!! It is a lost opportunity now but years ago the Vikings, Twins, Gophers, and the Wild (hockey) could have agreed to issue one Request for Proposal (RFP) calling for bids to build 4 stadiums together which clearly would have attracted the interest of major constructions companies since building 4 stadiums at the same time would have aggregated demand for steel, cement, etc. thus leading to a crazy economic concept known as -- VOLUME DISCOUNTS!!! Anyway, for 2007 the Mall of America's (MOA) Phase II expansion construction plan in Bloomington should be combined with the Vikings' quest for a new stadium. The MOA should drop their idea to build a hockey rink in Phase II and the Vikings should drop their plans to build the "Northern Lights" sports, entertainment, and retail complex in Anoka County to build a joint facility with the MOA.

Now that is an ideal partnership utilizing current public infrastructure.

Skol Vikings!


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