If you stopped counting the exact amount of public subsidy that was going toward the new Minnesota Vikings stadium once it passed $1.1 billion, yeah, pretty much so did I. But Minneapolis City Pages has uncovered an additional subsidy that’s worth reporting on if only because it’s exceptionally sneaky.
Here’s the way it works: The state legislature is to vote on a bill to allow both Minneapolis and St. Paul to implement parking surcharges in certain parts of town. The revenue from the surcharges would be used to build “public plazas… designed to promote enjoyment of the city for Minnesotans and tourists of all ages.” In this case, that means Downtown East Commons Park, a planned public park next to the new Vikings stadium. Looks nice, doesn’t it?
Part of the stadium giveaway brokered by those representing the people gives the Vikings and other VIPs exclusive use of the park for almost a third of a year.
Is this a huge deal? No, it’s not — the park will cost maybe $40 million to acquire and build, plus whatever it takes to maintain the place (pretty sure Vikings owner Zygi Wilf isn’t chipping in for that), and it’ll at least be available to the public part of the year. Still, it’s one of the growing list of examples of ways that team owners tack on additional costs that often don’t show up in the official figures — at least, not until after it’s too late to do anything about them.
And speaking of the Vikings stadium, it’s not only going to be a huge presence on the skyline, it’s going to have a huge U.S. Bank ad at the top, something that University of Minnesota design professor Tom Fisher calls “corporate graffiti,” though he adds that it may be “the only way to afford such expensive buildings.” Of course, that would be a better argument if the naming-rights fees from the bank were going to either the taxpayers who are putting up virtually all the money for the stadium or the residents whose eyeballs will be afflicted with this ad — but who can truly put a price on humans’ visual surroundings?