Friday, April 15, 2011

That Quote Suggests the Obvious About Stadiums

In another pretty well done article by the Star Tribune's Kevin Duchschere, we get a discussion of the underlying costs of building a new stadium--namely, the infrastructure required to make it a reasonable destination.  With enough money, one could build a most amazing stadium anywhere, but if said stadium is impossible to get to, then you haven't built a great stadium.  In the article, Duchschere gets thoughts from a bunch of folks about what the potential new Vikings stadium locations will need to make them reasonable destinations.

But there is a quote in there that is pure gold to people like me, who think that when your state is facing a huge deficit you shouldn't pour money into private enterprises.  And that quote was perhaps accidentally revealing.  

Every backer of a stadium that is publicly financed makes the same argument--"In the long run, with all the businesses that will spring up in that area, the bars and the shops and all that--it will basically pay for itself in the long run!"  Now, the Vikings are looking for somewhere well upwards of Six Tenths of A Billion Dollars of taxpayer to build their new stadium for them.  The idea has always been--build a stadium somewhere, and business will come.

Cue Sam Grabarski (presumably pronounced "Grab Arse Key") who is one of the folks who want to move the location of the borderline mythical new Vikings Stadium to a location closer to Target Field.  Of the Metrodome Location (which is about as easy of a location to get to in Minneapolis.  It is blocks away from two major Eisenhower Era Interstates), Grabarski says, paraphrased by the Star Trib:  In its 30 years anchoring the southeast end of downtown the Dome has never been an economic draw.

Hear that?  Admittedly, Grabarski is a guy with an agenda all his own (namely, to get a new Vikings stadium in the location he wants) but he makes a point.  A very good point.  Stadiums don't necessarily generate all of this awesome local income that they are supposed to.  You don't have to go very far to prove the point.  Cross the river, and hit downtown St. Paul, and see what the Xcel Center has done for that neighborhood.  For the first couple of years, it did gangbusters.  New bars, new restaurants, all that shit.  But the Wild have been pretty terrible for the last few years, and downtown St. Paul is all about, once again, places barely hanging on to their mortgages.

It is a reminder, at the end of the day, that stadiums don't generate revenue and new business all by themselves. And before the State and the County spend $300 million apiece to build a new stadium for the Vikings, they would be right to ask for a Guarantee that The Vikings Won't Suck.  Because spending well over a half billion dollars for a team that doesn't bring people in is a bad deal.  Even people who want the Vikings stadium know that much.  Do the Vikings know that much?

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