Economist turned lawmaker struggles with stadium vote

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.”

  • Bill Prendergast

    So…this is a politician who announces in advance that he *might* flip-flop? I thought the guy claimed he was a principled conservative. If he caves and does the popular thing to improve his own vote total next time…would that be the fastest cave ever on a matter of conservative principle and economic reality?

    I mean–Pawlenty left the state, what, five billion in debt, and this comes in saying that the proposed stadium won’t bring any economic gains back in return for the outlay–and he’s only in his first term. Should we get our stop-watches out to see how fast this conservative deserts his principles and the economic well-being of the state? Or is he going to man up and do the right thing, from a conservative viewpoint?

  • Jeff Hilger

    Would you do a study adding the thousands of jobs and BILLIONS of dollars to the Agriculture business in Minnesota. A Racino does both and it does it very well

  • Ralph Crammedin

    “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.

    Stop the presses! Banaian gets one right! For a guy whose politics almost always inform his economics, rather than vice versa, this is a remarkable statement.

    Perhaps there’s hope that these GOP Freshman Legislators will start to reason, rather than demagogue, major issues? Nah, they blew off job creation for a whole session in favor of marriage-banning and vote-banning Consitutional amendments. Expect Banaian and his ilk to revert to form after Christmas.

  • Someone

    So, he is saying he will not do the right thing if it is unpopular? Not impressed. Just what we don’t need right now….

  • Authentically Right

    Maybe he would like to remember that there are a great number of us who are passionate about not paying for toys for billionaires. The dirty secret behind the lack of support for Pawlenty was his assistance in foisting the baseball stadium off on Hennepin county. A large number of conservatives (me included) believe T-P sold us out. Had he stood his ground and said no to the Pohlad organisation he would have had a much wider victory over Hatch and he would still be in the contest for president. His support of the meat-head faction proved he had no principals and no back-bone.