The drum beat goes on from the NFL, local media, and NFL-orchestrated call for a publicly funded stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Those whose jobs and/or high salaries depend on the Vikings remaining in Minnesota--virtually everyone working at the Vikings' flagship station, those with high paying sports commentator salaries, those working local news, and those with connections to the team--are, of course, among the most vociferous proponents of a publicly funded stadium, with the "what me worry" segment of the fan base, a small, but vocal group, a close second.
As the Vikings amp up their contributions to the coffers of those willing to play henchman and inform Minnesotans that the Vikings will leave if a new deal is not soon completed, thereby leaving the Wilf's the claim that they "have never threatened a move," the team has prevailed upon its many minions to trot out the same tired lines. Many of the lines, of course, would be readily diminished, if not otherwise debunked, by anyone inclined toward objectivity. Among these cliches:
1. "The stadium will create jobs." True, constructing a stadium will create jobs. So, too, however, would the construction of a stadium without use of public dollars. But if one is really interested in using public funds to build a stadium, then one certainly ought to be aware that public funds can be used for a whole host of things that would generate jobs.
2. "Keeping the Vikings means tax revenue for Minnesota." True, again. The Vikings certainly generate tax revenue--on ticket and merchandise sales and on employee and player salaries, at least the portion that stays in state. Again, however, so do all jobs. The question is how does the public get the best--or even a sound--return on its investment? The Vikings are selling the stadium deal as a panacea for the state's job ills. A more likely panacea would be taking all of the money that the Vikings are requesting from the public and funding public projects in numerous areas--particularly infrastructure. That would create tax-revenue creating jobs, provide tax-revenue creating services, and reduce the need for additional taxes in other areas, all well into the future. And it would do so without relying on the magnanimity of a single professional sports entity that almost assuredly will be back at the door with at least one hand out in five-year's time.
3. "I didn't support the Shubert, now it's my turn to get something others do not support." In addition to epitomizing the decline of civilization and the rise of the tit-for-tatters-no-matter-the-consequences, such rants miss the mark. That mark is that foolish spending in one area does not support foolish spending in another area. It also, of course, grossly exaggerates a purported parallel. The Shubert Theater, one of the most expensive renovation efforts ever in the world of dance venues, cost the state approximately $16 million, with the bulk of the $60 million or so needed to complete the job raised from private donations. That's about 25% public funding. It's also about $16 million in arguably mostly unwarranted public spending. That certainly does not justify engaging in even more egregious public expenditures by providing 67% (and up) of the funding for a grossly over-priced facility. With the nearly $700 million that the Vikings are demanding from the public to build them a new stadium that will return the team an estimated $225 million per year in revenue, the State of Minnesota could fund nearly 45 Shuberts. And that's before accounting for the fact that bonding $700 million will cost the public more than $2 billion when it is all paid off--this in a state that only recently auctioned off its future income from the tobacco settlement to bridge a far more modest budget gap today. Criminal.
4. "It's like $200 per person per year--get over it." Yes, it is like that. Like $200 a year for every affected resident for the next 30 years. It is just like that. And that means that it is just like taking $6,000 from every resident--adult, child, fan, non-fan, attending fan, non-attending fan over thirty years, or $24,000 over that thirty-year period for a family of four. For some--namely those willing and able to plop down the seat-licensing fee, $100/game ticket fee, and other costs of going to a game--that's chump change. But to the vast majority of Minnesotans, that at least causes pause. And if that does not cause pause, what should is that that cost comes with an opportunity cost--diminished flexibility for the relevant municipality to address some future crisis with a bonding measure. At some point, a society simply can no longer accept paying $6,000/person for every project. Ask the people of Minneapolis who already are paying for a Twins' stadium, and the Shubert, and the Guthrie, and the Walker, and a poorly managed Police pension fund, and a school board that appears to have run amok, all on top of already high property taxes. And pity the outlying areas if Minneapolis ever turns the tables on them and goes to Court to stop paying into the LGA fund from which it receives less and less return each year. In short, despite what to some appears to be a small amount of pain for those not interested in participating on this venture, the pain is actually far greater. If this is the Vikings' strongest selling point, they need to rethink their strategy.
There are many, many more such contentions, but none more ardently pressed by those who believe that these are the winning arguments. But all such contentions take a back seat in the panoply of this debate to the strategy of attempting to win the debate by making the same contentions over, and over, and over again, and making them louder. If you have not tuned into the Vikings' flagship station recently, that is all that you have missed. Under the guise of "just being sensible," the flagship folks have opted for full sell-out. Their jobs are at stake, they are under orders, but, they also, most assuredly, have discarded all semblance of personal pride.
I've stated it before and one would think that it was obvious, but apparently it is not. A publicly funded stadium for the Vikings can make complete sense if those bargaining the deal for the state understand the game. The Vikings can be a revenue asset for the state--and that is the only manner in which anyone in state government ought to view discussions over a new stadium--if the deal is a partnership that returns to the state revenues in proportion to the state's percentage of investment. If it does not, it's not a good deal for the state and the state ought to let the Vikings leave for wherever it is that the Wilfs think the NFL will let them go. If that's LA, that means the Vikings will have saved at least four other cities from being held hostage by an entity not worth being held hostage by, and permitted the residents of Minnesota the opportunity to more effectively invest their tax revenue.
Up Next: In Awful NFC, Vikings Not Yet Eliminated.