It never seems to cease: professional sports teams in every market in the country go back and back and back to cities and states to demand that taxpayers finance stadiums the public will not own or operate. This is done with the complicity of elected officials under the ever-present threat that an area’s favorite team will abandon the market and ”go where they are wanted.” (Audio File below)
And go they do, sometimes even a few years after getting their stadiums.
Much has been made of the brand new Minnesota Twins ballpark as they prefer to call it – a stunning new facility that returns local baseball to the outdoors with nary a bow to Minnesota’s fickle elements.
Last year, it was the University of Minnesota’s TCF Gopher Football stadium (decades after tearing down Memorial Stadium) and the St. Paul Saints are asking that city to put up a new stadium for them down along West 7th St. Now come the Minnesota Vikings, headed by owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, buttressed by the likes of the ever-loving icon, Bud Grant, to say that, now that their contract to occupy the Humphrey Dome is coming to an end, they, too, consider it our civic duty and fiscal responsibility to cough up yet another multimillion-dollar stadium, even in a recession and state deficits running to the billions – or else.
Although presumed to be a dead issue in such a climate, DFL state Senator Tom Bakk is now saying they should look at it for this session, after all. And the governor may be waffling after insisting this is not the year. What is the power is behind these reversals? What is it about this business that threats of pulling teams out of a state or locality make politicians become apoplectic? Is this the inevitable result of the politics of high-rolling entertainment? What are the options the public should consider? Are our sports teams so much more important than other state spending priorities? MinnPost.com’s Jay Weiner asks several pointed questions, the big one being, “Why now?”
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN bring those questions home to this week’s guests – team owners, stadium managers, a legislator or two, to discern the justification for this persistent quest for public investment. And we add a critic or two whose voices are drowned out in the flurry of media support that feeds the public campaign that these investments do not, as stadium proponents claim, bring millions of tax dollars to state and local coffers.
• JEFF ANDERSON – Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Minnesota Vikings Football, LLC
• BILL LESTER – Executive Director, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (This site is down for some reason as this is written)
• ARTHUR ROLNICK – Senior Vice President, Federal Reserve of Minneapolis; Co-author, Congress Should End the Economic War Among the States, and of essays and papers on Early Childhood Development