Long article in the New York Times today about the Minnesota Vikings stadium push by the man they insist on assigning stadium stories to, the inimitable Ken Belson. And as is par for the Belson, there’s plenty of good information in there, but the main premise misses it by that much:
The country’s most popular sport is colliding with the country’s emergent political philosophy: smaller government and lower taxes.
“We have to ask whether this is really a good use of the money,” said King Banaian, one of more than 30 Republicans to join Minnesota’s House of Representatives this year and a professor who teaches sports economics at St. Cloud State University. “Should we be supporting a new stadium over higher education? It’s simply not a priority. These deals are, by and large, giveaways to millionaires and billionaires.”
That would be an interesting and dramatic point — if not for the fact that Minnesotans have always been opposed to public funding of new sports stadiums. Belson cites a May Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll that found that 62% of Minnesotans want the Vikings to keep playing in the Metrodome, and 74% are opposed to using public money for a new football stadium. Compare that with, to pick just one example, this poll from 2004 that found more than 60% of Minnesotans opposed to using tax money for a Twins stadium, and more than two-thirds against the Vikings getting a new stadium at all.
The Twins, of course, got their new stadium, but only after the state legislature allowed Hennepin County to raise sales taxes without a voter referendum, which would certainly would have been defeated.
So opposition to spending money on stadium over schools is less a sign of an “emergent political philosophy” (since when do small-govenment types like school funding, anyway?) than a longstanding distaste for stadium subsidies among Minnesotans. It’s always possible that this represents an emergent political philosophy among Minnesota legislators, of course. But then, given that it took ten years for the Twins to get their stadium through the legislature, and even then did so only by ensuring no state money was used and by a two-vote margin, it’s probably fair to say there’s nothing really new there, either.