All of it, apparently.
On Thursday, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission will release a report on stadium financing that, it says, “details both the public costs and the revenues derived from supporting professional sports in Minnesota.”
“This report shows that – contrary to what some people think – professional sports has been a financial winner for our state,” said Roy Terwilliger, MSFC chairman. “The Metrodome has paid for itself through the revenues generated by its tenants and the tax revenues created by professional sports total up to hundreds of millions of dollar,” the news release said.
Proving the Metrodome has “paid for itself” is not related to the question of taxpayer support for stadiums. Not anymore. The Metrodome is a dinosaur. The report may prove that it’s smart business to build a public facility and then lease it out to a team, except that those days are over, because nobody builds stadiums with the Metrodome business model anymore. In fact, the Metrodome business model is exactly why teams want new stadiums.
The Twins wanted a new stadium because the money that goes to the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, should — they think — go to the Twins instead. In other words, they don’t want to rent. They want to own. Teams want stadium revenue, they want luxury box revenue, they want parking revenue, they want naming-rights revenue. They can’t get that at the Metrodome, so they wanted out.
Clearly, it’s now the Vikings who want a new stadium at taxpayer expense. But based on the news release, it looks like the report is going to mix up — again — the question of public financing of a new stadium with the question of whether it’s good to have pro sports in a community. The report’s release, comes in the middle of a “listening tour” the commisson is holding. In announcing that tour last month, Terwilliger said, “We need to move the discussion forward about whether we want to keep pro football in Minnesota…”
Well, no, the question is not whether to publicly fund a stadium or not have football. The question is whether to publicly fund a stadium for a private business or not publicly fund a stadium for a private business.
After more than 12 years of debate on the role of public subsidies for pro sports teams, it’s pretty clear that , generally speaking, Minnesotans have been saying (a) yes, it’s better to have a pro sports team than not have one and (b) no, it’s not something worth spending tax money on.
Whether the discussion “moves forward” depends on whether the MSFC is listening.