Is it a time to forgive?

Should taxpayers pay for a hockey arena in St. Paul?

That’s the question facing Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a professed hockey nut, now that the Legislature has sent him a political grenade — a bill that forgives $33 million of a no-interest loan the city got from the state to lure professional hockey back to Minnesota by building the Xcel arena.

The city really doesn’t need the money, except that it wants to build another hockey arena across the street for the benefit — primarily — of the Minnesota Wild, who need a hockey facility.

A hotel planned for the site has been dropped, according to St. Paul councilman Dave Thune on the the St. Paul Issues Forum. “The ice sheet would provide a base…(surrounded) by a really exciting retail component befitting historic seven corners. The pond would host world class figure skating, public skating, wild hockey practice, curling and youth hockey,” he said.

Perhaps. But wasn’t one benefit of the Xcel Center to be a boost to business in St. Paul? A few restaurants have benefited, there’s more business for parking ramps, but other than that, not much. And while it attracted the Republican National Convention, that week was a disaster, even for businesses a teargas cannister’s throw from the arena.

Back when then-mayor Norm Coleman was trying to cut the arena deal, some people in St. Paul objected to the city getting stuck with pricetag for an arena that would attract hockey-loving suburbanites. Perhaps this is one way they can pony up their share.

But what about people in Marshall, for example. Its representative, Marty Seifert, the House Minority Leader is, predictably, no fan of the bill. “Go back to your coffee shop. Go back to your hardware store … and ask people if you think this is an opportune time for us to be forgiving over $30 million that’s owed to the state of Minnesota, from a deal that was struck in the 1990s, when we are $6 billion in the hole,” said he said.

What say you?

  • What say you?

    After reading Thune’s comments (someone I genuinely like), it reeks of Block E, Part II. With moving an old building, and everything!

  • davidz

    We don’t need to spend public money on facilities for a private sports team. Period. Not for a football stadium, not for a hockey rink. Shouldn’t have done it for the Twins or Gophers either.

    The return on investment just isn’t there.

    Public money for public facilities. Let the Wild fund their own playgrounds.

  • suzanne horvath

    we should not forgive that debt, when we are asking city and state and county workers to take furloughs for several years to balance the debt. why is pawlenty forgiving debts and spending money the state does not have on special projects and not balancing the budget.

  • bob

    Aren’t taxpayers already on the hook? How has the city been paying back this state loan, if not with taxpayer money? Unless the city has a money tree or is printing its own…

  • Bob Collins

    City taxpayers have been primarily on the hook. State taxpayers to a lesser degree have been funding the interest. Under this proposal, city taxpayers’ responsibility gets taken over by the state taxpayers.

    I’m trying to go back over the history of the major state-backed loans to see how often they are “forgiven.”

    But it’s a good example of how the original debate on these things being somewhat dishonest because “forgiving the loan” never comes up as a possibility and so the economics of the debate are invalid.

    And, sticking it in another bill rather than having it stand alone uses other projects at human shields.

    It’s not a very pretty process.

  • It’s funny how the site they chose literally allows the greatest number of fans to access the games without interacting with St. Paul. Pull into a ramp and then leave after the game. No need to ever actually enter into the downtown area when you can just dart in and out of Xcel’s convenient edge of downtown location.

  • Bob Collins

    I work downtown and on game nights I see a LOT of people park downtown and then walk to the games, tho they usually have a pop at Alary’s or Great Waters.

    But how exactly would they interact with downtown St. Paul. The skyway is a ghost city after 2 in the afternoon.

    There’s nothing there but empty storefronts, CandyLand, a bar or two, a restaurant or three, and a small grocery store which I think is closed by gametime.

  • bob

    Maybe that’ll be St. Paul’s claim to fame: The Ghost Town with Two Publicly Subsidized Hockey Facilities.

  • Stormer

    Unless I’m mistaken, the Wild already HAS a hockey facility. It’s called THE XCEL CENTER!!!

    First Norm Coleman gives a sweetheart deal to them, now Pawlenty wants to stick it to the people of St. Paul for another, totally unnecessary facility? That’s just wrong on so many levels.

  • Elizabeth T

    No taxes!

    Not only will we refuse to tax you … we’ll throw away the pittance of taxes we do manage to squeeze out of your financially dessicated corpus.

    Wake me up when the insanity of our government passes…