Some new faces dominate the debate over whether the state should help build a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. But the arguments probably sound familiar, as familiar as they did in the years leading up to the building of Target Field, the home of the Twins.
Today, MPR’s Midmorning is wading into the argument which likely will hit the Legislature within the next few weeks. Today’s guests are:
* Ted Mondale: Chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.
* Judith Grant Long: Associate Professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
* Neil deMause: Co-author of “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit.”
I’m live blogging the show and encouraging you to share your comments, the best and most insightful of which I’ll read on the air. (Hit F5 — refresh — to see the latest entries)
9:04 a.m. – Ted Mondale has come into the studio Kerri and he are discussing user fees and why the Vikings aren’t putting more money into the deal (there was no answer to that one).
9:07 a.m. – Kerri’s intro:
But we begin with the arguments for–and against–taxpayer contributions to a new Vikings Stadium. State lawmakers will have to balance an expiring Metrodome lease and threats that the Vikings will leave–Sound familiar???—with the inescapable truth of a $6.2 billion shortfall–and the political jujitsu that will require. So–how to justify taxpayer money for a new stadium in a time of budget austerity?
That’s one of the challenges for my in-studio guest today. Ted Mondale is the new Chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facility Commission and he is Governor Dayton’s point man on the stadium at the capitol. Welcome.
In a moment..Judith Grant Long will join us. She’s Associate Professor of Urban Planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
A bit later…Neil DeMoss will join in. He is a journalist and author of: “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit.”
9:09 a.m. – The first question is the obvious one: How can the state pay for a stadium during economic times like this:
“It’s important we keep an NFL team in the Twin Cities,”Mondale said. He said if the Vikings leave, “it puts us on a list that makes us look like losers.”
9:10 a.m. – Mondale says Gov. Dayton says the public should get more out of a stadium than the state puts in. “It needs to be paid for as much as possible — if not totally — by user fees.
9:12 a.m. – But why don’t the Vikings put more into the stadium than they are. “I’m not here to negotiate with the Vikings on air,” Mondale said, “but there’s no doubt they’ll have to put more into it.” He says there’s little interest in the Vikings plan to pay only a third. “I’ve not met any legislators who are interested in that,” but says the Vikings aren’t negotiating because there’s no one to negotiate yet.
He says, though, that the Vikings won’t pay 100 percent of the stadium. He says other states “will pay anything” to have a pro sports team in town, but many of those cities have found that the return isn’t as high as they thought it would be. Other markets — Indianapolis for one — are seeing their teams put more money into the stadiums.
9:16 a.m. - Caller Mark: “I’m astounded at the state’s inability to drive a hard bargain with these owners. Taxpayers bought Target Field, but the owners got all the money from the naming rights.”
9:17 a.m. – Mondale: There will be very hard bargaining on this project… if there is a project.
9:20 a.m. – Judith Grant Long joins us now. She says economists have discovered that stadiums really don’t deliver new jobs and new taxes. Pro sports is less than one-tenth of one percent of theGDP. She says the new element of the argument is one that I’ve wondered why wasn’t pursued in the past — why make an economic argument? Why not make an argument that it’s nice to have an NFL team in town and debate whether that’s true?
9:25 a.m. - “There has to be more to that argument,” Mondale says. He says he’s meeting with business leaders this afternoon who will say “this is important to our area. This is about jobs.”
9:26 a.m. – Mondale says the stadium will create 2,000 jobs, “and that’s nothing to laugh at,” a rebuttal to the Harvard professor.
9:27 a.m. – Ten percent of the occupancy downtown derive from events that are Metrodome events, Mondale says. Judith Long says “this is very much the rhetoric we hear, to try to move arguments past hard economic numbers.” She says Mondale is trying his best to come up with numbers, which allows us to consider what might be a proper Vikings contribution. “The average deal in the U.S. in the last few years has been a 75-25, with private being the 25. She says that should be flipped.
9:30 a.m. – Caller notes the Wilfs will own a team of greater value when they sell the team. Will the team give some of that back to the state?
“In the (Twins) deal, there was an assessment of team value and a provision in the bill that when the team is sold, 25% of the price will go back to the public entities that contributed to the stadium,” Mondale said.
(Judith Long has been cut loose from the discussion)
9:32 a.m. – Mondale cites book “Major League Winners” that disputes the professor’s economic claims.
9:34 a.m. – Caller Peter says one side ignores math, the other doesn’t care about math. “The vitriol with which we refuse to subsidize the Mall of America is confounding.”
Mondale says that’s not true. “The next time you go to the Mall of America and look at the big garages, exit ramps, and highways, that was all public subsidies.”
9:36 a.m. – Mondale says Vikings aren’t going to put their cards on the table until there’s an actual bill. Lester Bagley of the Vikings says the team will likely add money to the original offer, as the Twins did after construction had already started (to build things that weren’t in the original design).
9:38 a.m. – This should be as much about user fees as possible, according to Mondale. He mentions lodging taxes, ticket taxes. But is a lodging tax really a user fee or just a tax on people who don’t vote here?
9:40 a.m. – Mondale: “This cannot be a debate between the Minnesota Vikings and schools; that should never happen.”
(Neil deMause has joined us)
9:41 a.m. – deMause says sports franchises “wear down” people with the arguments. “Teams just cycle through these arguments over and over again hoping one will stick,” he says.
“The Twins’ approach evolved from contraction, which wasn’t taken well, to a more collaborative approach. I don’t think there’s anybody pushing this bill at the Legislature or governor’s office who’s going to be put over a barrel by the Vikings,” Mondale says.
9:45 a.m. – deMause says the public should put some money in “because it’s not like there’s no pubic benefit,” it’s just much lower than what the teams have been getting in terms of subsidies.
9:46 a.m. - “The most important thing in looking at a potential deal, is what happened elsewhere. Almost every city that lost a team, paid more to get one back,” Mondale said. But he also says “this may not be doable in this economy.”
9:48 a.m. – Caller asks if there was much economic harm when the North Stars moved to Dallas. There doesn’t appear to be an answer, judging by the answer.
9:50 a.m. – Why not let the public vote? “Because it would lose,” the author says. The one exception is when teams outspend their opponents more than 100-to-1, then it is approved.
9:52 a.m. – Caller asks why the TCF Bank stadium can’t be upgraded for professional football?
“My understanding from the discussions we’ve had, both from the U of M and the Vikings is it doesn’t lose economically,” Mondale says. “The U isn’t excited about having the Vikings on campus for a long period of time.”
9:55 a.m. – deMause: “We’re building stadiums to get the subsidies, we’re not building new stadiums because we need new stadiums.”
Mondale: The Metrodome was funded by taxes and was paid off by the sale of Met Center. The governor is going to support a bill only if it the public benefit is greater than the money goes in there. For the fourth time in today’s show, he says it might not be possible.
He also says there’s been no discussion of a public vote?
“Would that be a good option?” Miller asks.
“Good try, Kerri,” Mondale says, ending today’s segment.