King Banaian probably knows more about the economics of sports stadiums than most people in the state. Banaian, an economics professor at St. Cloud State University, said people in his profession have moved past the argument that a stadium will provide a long-term economic benefit.
“The economics pretty much point in the other direction,” Banaian told MPR News.
Banaian also said he doubts that the number of jobs that Vikings owners and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton say would be produced by the stadium (an estimated 7,500) will materialize.
“If all he wanted were more jobs, there are better ways to do it,” he said.
Banaian speaks on good authority. He teaches a class on the economics of sports and spends at least one class lecturing on the stadium issue.
“The next class will be in late December,” he said
Banaian has supplied stadium economic opinions to more than his class. He said he’s given studies to voters. And GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean said Banaian has advised him on the stadium debate.
Dean and other members of the Minnesota House may rely more heavily on Banaian as the Vikings stadium debate heats up. That’s because Banaian is also a first-term Republican representing St. Cloud in the House.
And Despite the economic evidence that stadiums don’t produce a long-term economic benefit, Banaian said he isn’t sure how he’ll vote on a bill that would finance a new Vikings stadium.
“I never imagined in a million years when I started teaching sports economics that someday I might be casting a vote on a stadium bill,” Banaian said.
Banaian said he’s weighing more than the economic impact of the stadium. He said he’s also listening to voters who are passionate about the team.
“When you’re in the classroom and it’s a strictly a research question, it’s pretty easy to come down on this,” Banaian said.”When you actually are the person facing the voters and hear the stories of your grandfather and your father who watched the Vikings as well, that has real value.”
Banaian, who won his House race by a razor thin 13 vote margin in 2010, said he’s listening to voters and talking with them about the issue. He said public opinion is mixed on the stadium issue.
No matter how he votes, Banaian said he won’t support any claims about a positive economic benefit from a new stadium.
“If you’re going to make a statement for the stadium, it has to be about the quality of life that comes from an NFL city,” he said.
Banaian said his experience in the stadium debate may prompt him to write a book about the subject after he leaves the Legislature. He also said the stadium debate will also provide material for classroom lectures.
He may need it. When asked if he expects his students to lobby him on the stadium bill, Banaian chuckled and said, “They already are.”