Minneapolis developer claims Super Bowl will fund its affordable housing project, is this for real?

Could it be? An actual benefit that a city is getting from hosting the Super Bowl? That’s what the Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting about that city’s hosting of the 2018 game, which has supposedly helped local developers create a new subsidized housing project for middle-income earners:

[For-profit developer] Ryan [Cos.], First Covenant Church, and Community Housing Development Corp. (CHDC) a year ago outlined a rough vision for a six-story apartment building across S. 6th Street from the new Vikings stadium. This week, they submitted to the city a near-final plan for the $38 million project, which was designed by UrbanWorks Architecture…

Ryan, First Covenant and CHDC found a way to make the math work for their project, one that takes the Olympics for inspiration. They have an unnamed private partner with a nice budget for housing and operational space during the Super Bowl festivities that is close to committing to the project.

Since the building’s site is within the Super Bowl’s required security perimeter, 500 feet from the stadium, the group plans to first rent the building to this private entity at a rate that would make the project financially possible — and without subsidy.

So, great, right? The “unnamed private partner” gets space to use during the Super Bowl, people earning $20,000 to $55,000 a year get some new affordable apartments, and it’s a win-win all around!

Well, maybe. The developers say their model is Olympic Villages, which after the games are over are often repurposed for other uses, but those are usually built with Olympics money, not paid for by a particular private entity looking to rent short-term space. Not only is the CHDC’s private partner unnamed, but so is the amount they’re willing to pay to rent the buildings for Super Bowl week — you can get a one-bedroom in downtown Minneapolis during the Super Bowl on Airbnb for a whopping $8,000 a night, so if you double that for the prime location and multiply by a full week and for 160 apartments, that’s: $20 million, maybe? And that’s the retail price, so I’d be very surprised if the private partner is paying more than $10 million for the Super Bowl rental, which comes to about $60,000 an apartment, which is about one-quarter the typical cost of building affordable housing in Minneapolis, though if they just need it to span the gap between their costs and what renters can afford to pay … maybe. Or it’s possible this project would be happening anyway, but they’re getting a little extra cash and some added publicity via the Super Bowl angle.

I would love to see a way to fund affordable housing on the backs of rich people who are willing to pay whatever it takes to live next to the Super Bowl for a week, but I’d need to see more numbers (and names) attached to this before I’m willing to give it the full three cheers. In housing as in stadiums, please hold your applause until all the financial details are in.

People in Minnesota are already struggling for words to describe ugliness of new Vikings stadium

Sure, you’ve seen renderings of the Minnesota Vikings‘ new stadium set to open this fall. But unless you live in the Twin Cities, you probably haven’t seen it with your own eyes — Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray has, though, and he’s happy to describe it for you:

That stadium gives off a dark vibe.  Sheathed in black. Knife-edged. Towering.


No, ugly is too quick to the keyboard. Not charming. That’s it. It is not charming. It looks like a hangar for the bat-winged flying machines of evil alien forces. It was supposed to resemble a Viking ship, I thought, but the only vessel shape that comes to mind is a bloated Noah’s Ark, and I am sure the architects and the Wilfs didn’t imagine that.

“Bat-winged flying machines of evil alien forces” — now there’s what the XFL needed to stay in business.

Here’s the latest image of the stadium, via the Vikings’ construction webcam. Post your own fun descriptors in comments!


Vikings’ new stadium has a leaky roof, team somehow resists urge to demand an even newer one

The Minnesota Vikings‘ new stadium has a leaky gutter, and you know what that means: Time to tear it down and build a new one! No? Too soon?

M.A. Mortenson Co. executive John Wood announced Friday that the gutter on the $1.1 billion building was leaky and needed about $4 million in repairs.

Last fall, workers noticed dampness on the parapet wall and some pooling of water in the gutter, but the water had yet to seep inside, Wood said.

“We’re happy they found it now,” Wood said. “Stuff happens on projects.”

If anyone out there can identify the exact point in time at which “stuff happens” turns into “this building is obsolete,” there’s a Nobel Prize in Situational Economics with your name on it.

Vikings near goal of selling $125m in PSLs, other NFL teams think that’s just adorable

The owners of the Minnesota Vikings have announced they’re 90% of the way toward selling out their stadium-builder licenses (i.e., PSLs) for their new stadium, having raised $115 million toward their $125 million goal as part of funding for their $1 billion stadium.

That’s good for them, but it points up how crazily unbalanced the PSL market is, with the Dallas Cowboys raising about $650 million, the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, and New York Jets a bit over $300 million apiece, and teams like the Vikings and Atlanta Falcons down in the $100 million range. That sort of explains why NFL teams are willing to pay $550 million to go to Los Angeles for its supposed PSL riches, though not really, since unless the Rams suddenly become as popular as the Cowboys they’re still only looking at maybe $250 million of added PSL sales, which according to my math is less than $550 million.

The other interesting bit is that, as has been the case with other PSL deals, the Vikings sold out the best seats and the cheapest ones first, and it’s the mid-priced ones that are the toughest sells. That could be a commentary on our increasingly economically polarized society, though it could also just mean that NFL teams are lousy at setting prices. Either way, if you have $2,000 burning a hole in your pocket and a desire to spend it on the right to buy football tickets (which will cost extra money to actually buy, of course), then Minnesota has a deal for you.

Vikings are suing Wells Fargo for photobombing their new stadium

The stadium news world has clearly decided this week to transition from tragedy to farce: First the mentally disturbed man who somehow claimed the lease to the San Diego Padres stadium, and now the Minnesota Vikings are suing Wells Fargo Bank for photobombing their new stadium:

“Wells Fargo has recently started installing mounted and illuminated roof top signs that do not conform to the parties agreement in an effort to permanently ‘photo bomb’ the image of the iconic U.S. Bank Stadium,” the lawsuit said. “The prohibited action must be stopped immediately.”

The Wells Fargo signs are atop a pair of new buildings the bank is building alongside the under-construction Vikings stadium — which, you’ll recall, got a naming-rights deal with a competing bank (U.S. Bank). Since they’re part of the same larger development, the Vikings got to set conditions for the types of signage that Wells Fargo would erect, and ultimately agreed to allow two non-illuminated signs that were painted on the roof, not raised. Since then, however, Wells Fargo tried to amend the agreement to allow for lit signs, saying if it was denied, it would respond by simply “lighting the entire roof of each tower, including the signs.”

There’s surely some wording deep within the agreement that will determine who prevails in court, but right now let’s just enjoy the hilarity of a football team suing a neighboring building for putting up giant roof logos that it’s afraid will distract from its own giant roof logos.

Vikings stadium czar: Team was never moving to L.A., thanks for the $500m, though!

With stadium talks with the San Diego Chargers still going nowhere fast, this has left the San Diego sportswriters who’ve been pushing for a deal in a bit of a quandary for what to write about. On Friday, Mark Ziegler wrote about how Tijuana’s soccer team got a new stadium when San Diego isn’t (the trick: a total cost of a mere $125 million, plus an owner who was hoping to cash in by getting his team promoted to the top Mexican league, two things that aren’t options for the Chargers); today, it’s our old pal Kevin Acee pointing out that it took the Minnesota Vikings a good decade and a half to get a new stadium, so San Diego should be patient and — wait, hold on a second here:

Even as the Vikings were frequently mentioned from the outside as a possible relocation candidate in the years leading up to the 2012 approval of a new stadium here, [Vikings stadium point man Lester] Bagley said the team never used Los Angeles as a bargaining chip. He said he believes ownership would have sold the team before it moved the Vikings.

“Never used Los Angeles as a bargaining chip”? So when NFL VP Eric Grubman declared that the time was “getting ripe” for the Vikings to move and that “I think the Wilfs do not want to sell the franchise, but I think there is a point where they probably would be open-minded,” and then NFL commissioner Roger Goodell flew to Minnesota to scare the state legislature into coughing up half a billion dollars in public money, something it immediately did despite an electronic gambling scheme that ended up generating no revenue and having to be bailed out by other state cash, that was just, you know, a coincidence? Or he’s making a distinction that the owners never threatened to move to L.A. themselves, they just had league officials threaten that the team would be sold and moved to L.A., which isn’t a bargaining chip at all, right?

Oy. For a palate-cleanser, go read this NBC San Diego report on how the Chargers may be in violation of their lease for not meeting with the city often enough to discuss stadium plans. It doesn’t really make any more sense — San Diego would have nothing to gain by breaking its lease with the Chargers, unless you really think the Spanos family could be frightened into spending more money on a new stadium by the threat of being forced to play in the street — but at least it’s based on actual reality.

Minnesota to spend $40m on park that will be reserved for Vikings during football season

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?

home-imageAnd Minnesotans had better hope that it’s perpetual springtime in the park, as in this photo, because they’re not going to be able to enjoy the park in the fall without a ticket:

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?

Stadiums can be anchors for related development, say newspapers in search of cheap headlines

You know what I missed while I was away? Having the time to read long, misinformed articles about new stadium projects and how they’re just totally different from those old bad stadium projects of a couple of decades ago. Got anything like that for me, Google News?

With the era of standalone, isolated stadiums largely over, sports team owners increasingly are taking on the role of developer and using their stadiums as anchors for entertainment districts or retail and residential developments.

Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff.

The article in question is from the Tampa Tribune’s Christopher O’Donnell, and argues that this newfangled stadium-plus-other-development model being used by teams like the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Red Wings (or “Redwings,” as he calls them) could be used by the Tampa Bay Rays for a new stadium as well. It ignores the fact that these stadium-plus projects aren’t especially new, going back well over a decade (the St. Louis Cardinals‘ “ballpark village” was one of the earlier ones, but I’m sure I’m forgetting others), and mostly ignores, aside from a comment by stadium architecture consultant Philip Bess (who O’Donnell calls “Phillip” — fired all the copy editors, did you, Tampa Tribune?), the problem that if development around a stadium were profitable enough to pay off a stadium, teams would be able to pursue this strategy without public subsidies. Not to mention that if stadium-related development is profitable it could be pursued without the money suck of a new stadium attached, that it could just end up displacing development that otherwise would have taken place somewhere else in town, that development around stadiums has typically appeared years late when it shows up at all, etc., etc.

Anyway, good to see that these articles still pop up every once in a while for me to throw rocks at, and — whoa there!

The new Minnesota Vikings football stadium, to be completed a year from now, is helping draw nearby office towers, upscale housing and other developments, according to its supporters.

Guys! One article at a time, please! I’m still getting back up to speed here.