NYTimes: Vikings stadium woes are Tea Party’s fault

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.

9 comments on “NYTimes: Vikings stadium woes are Tea Party’s fault

  1. I think it’s more an indication that when people get elected to office, they instantly think that they know “better” than we proles do about what to do with Guv’mint money.

    In a sense they may be right, because we “proles” just keep re-electing the bastards.

  2. Perhaps people don’t know what they really want or what projects would benefit society.

  3. I have lived in Saint Paul off and on for over 10 years. I am friends with a few state legislators and I can tell you that the public’s resistance to the stadium deals has been extremely consistent and predictable.

    But if you conduct enough million dollar lobbying campaigns with state and local governments you almost always get what you want eventually no matter how unpopular, sometimes from simply wearing the legislature down. They just get sick of hearing about it.

    For a developer spending $10 or $20 million in lobbying over 10 years for a several hundred million dollar handout is a no-brainer. For the public it is a disaster.

    The main thing the “tea-party” has changed is that the legislators are being just a bit more fiscally skeptical, and they are a bit more interested in what the public thinks.

  4. Not to get too political here, but the Tea Party is just the rise of the amateur. Like with many amateur movements, there could be unintended consequences.


  5. Man, I really can’t stand the Tea Party. Bunch of intransigent John Birch Society wannabees.

    We’re getting the same argument in Sacramento, by the way. “Just because 80% of the people voted against Q&R doesn’t mean they don’t want a publicly-funded arena! That vote was about THAT proposal, not this one!”.

    And yet, if the vague outline we’re seeing so far suggests a final plan, I think 80% of the public would still vote no.

    The opposition to these things, as far as I can tell, is independent of political leanings. The left sees it as corporate welfare, and the right sees is as a lack of fiscal restraint (I won’t get into the entire “They’re just socialists!” argument, which I think is pretty bogus). I think they’re both correct.

  6. “But if you conduct enough million dollar lobbying campaigns with state and local governments you almost always get what you want eventually no matter how unpopular, sometimes from simply wearing the legislature down. They just get sick of hearing about it. ”

    That’s exactly what happened with the 49ers stadium subsidy here in Santa Clara. When 49ers-Booster City Councilmembers met opportunistic State Legislators, fiscally responsible Santa Clarans didn’t have a chance.

    We went from 62% of Santa Clarans OPPOSING blowing public money on a stadium to “Measure Jed” within a year. Jed’s $5M media extravaganza just wore out too many credulous people – and now, one Santa Clara Agency will probably end up carrying well over $500,000,000 in debt to build the stadium. It will also have to come up with $20M to $30M a year to operate it for the 49ers.

    The 49ers will not guarantee the solvency of our Stadium Authority in any way, other than to advance the agency still more cash loans to be paid back at what will be an outrageous rate of interest. We’ll be in debt forever.

    The 49ers have gone from “hinting” that they’d cover 53% of the stadium’s construction costs to covering 15% to 25% of those costs in that same single year, too.

    This last is simply another in a long string of broken promises — not only by the San Francisco 49ers, but by our elected leaders, too.

    What’s cookin’? Smells like the Indy and Cincy deals already.

    Bill Bailey, Treasurer,


  7. Perhaps a federal law requiring a plebescite on any “non essential” public spending (IE: wants rather than needs, it wouldn’t affect hospitals, schools, roads and the like) might at least force any extortion attempts by stadium hopefuls to be reasonable requests (we already know that when they use their own money, their “needs” are much more modest than when someone else is paying).

    However, that same law would likely mean the end of any “grand” public building, whether for libraries, galleries, other civic buildings etc.

    Perhaps the most effective tactic would be to adopt “modesty” guidelines for publicly funded buildings, as is done with social housing for example. The public purse will pay for a certain percentage of the basic infrastructure required, any extras are the private partners to pay.

    A few years ago I was involved in a PPP with a local gov’t and, other than annoying cost overruns (a danger in even the most well planned project), it went reasonably well.

  8. This may not be the perfect thread to make this point, but it occurred to me recently that when it comes time for players to renegotiate a contract there is great prestige in getting the most dollars, the biggest guarantee, the longest commitment, etc. To them, being the highest paid clearly shows a commitment by the team to winning.

    I’m finding a similar pattern with these stadium deals. It seems that if the last guy got 200M the next guy wants 250M only to force the most recent guy to want 300M and nothing short of that will provide them the revenues they need to stay competitive. By the time our kids are posting here people will be asking for multi-billion dollar facilities…

    I could probably post this with Tampa Bay Devil Rays discussion as I’m sure Sternberg is frustrated not just by the disparity of revenues as revenue sharing probably more than makes up for tat but by the indifference he faces in his market.

    But a shiny new stadium would really boost his ego!

    I think there are fair deals to be made and its obvious these guys aren’t that interested in those ones.

  9. John Bladen, Seattle basically already has that. That’s not precisely how I-91 works, but it’s not far off.

    I’d settle for a Measure 91 in my town. “Are you paying us back at the prevailing bond rate?”. When they walk away, you say, “Yup. Didn’t think so.”

    If they cannot guarantee a 4% rate of return, I don’t see how they can claim $7B over 30 years — which is what Think Big has forecast in Sacramento.