It is interesting to see any support — both outright and tacit support — for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium built with tax payer dollars in Arden Hills, MN. After the disastrous year in both Minnesota state politics and the mood nationally where anti-tax, anti-government conservatives have all but destroyed the economic foundation and the security of the working and middle class…well, of course it makes absolute sense to subsidized the profitable business of the National Football League.
Billionaire owners need millions of our dollars to build a stadium that will let them and their employees make many, many more millions while the average American struggles to maintain a relatively modest lifestyle, one with less certainty about quality of life issues like health, education, and retirement? This all says a lot about the values of our society and its priorities. There are many economic lessons here too about leveraging scarcity, demand, and economies of scale.
The people of the NFL enjoy such disproportionately advantageous wealth because they are lucky, they sit in an economic gold mine opened by our fanaticism for their unique niche in the market. If you want to say that is something special worthy of their enormous entitlement, so be it…but why then do we have to pile on additional gifts — literally economic sacrifice as if we need to pay tribute to maintain their favors — to support this “free market” success?
But I’m babbling about stuff that isn’t even part of the debate. The Vikings will get their stadium even as more and more Minnesotans lose health care, pay more for education, lose retirement benefits, etc., etc., etc…
(And remember who votes for this stuff. At least Democrats are consistent in seeing a place for government investment and are not opposed to taxes. Building a stadium will create jobs, for example. The lion’s share of the long term economic benefit, however, will go to people who are not suffering in the current economic and political environment. Building better roads would be a more socially responsible investment — a modern-era New Deal — but the value of that doesn’t register with our ignorant political class today. So pay attention…where do your Amy Kochs and Kurt Zellerses stand on this issue?)
o we’re going to help build a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Yippee. Let’s be smart about it. First and foremost, why would you build a stadium in a location that needs new infrastructure to support it?
Look at the Minnesota Twins ball park as an example of what works. The stadium is centrally located in the metropolitan area and it is located where the people are. Offices, homes, and business surround the location. Large investments in public transportation already exists in Minneapolis including light rail and the North Star commuter line. Parking exists. And further development in the downtown area will help support the economy and business in that area, especially hotels, restaurants, and retail.
Developers argue that building in Arden Hills will spur growth there. Two questions: First, why do we want growth in Arden Hills? Second, where is that growth going to come from?
Sorry, Arden Hills, but what advantage would there be for the region if another Bloomington emerged just north of Minneapolis and St. Paul? Moreover, where would this growth come from? We have a glut of office and retail space in the Twin Cities already. Expecting an expansion in that sort of space just because there’s a sleek new stadium to “support” it is a pipe dream. Some people think you could pull business from the cities with lower rents, but will the economics support development costs of new office space carried by lower rents? You have to pay the bills! Unless you go to the taxpayers for financing subsidies for periphery development as well.
It is more likely that Zygi Wilf wants a nice development that he can cash in before moving out. He’s supposed to be a developer, after all, I’m sure he knows a thing or two about profiting from the enthusiastic ignorance of local governments.
Let’s also look at some other simple issues, common sense you-know-it-when-you-see-it issues. If you ever drive on I-694 any time other than the overnight hours, you know it is a mess now. Drive that way during rush hour and it can easily take an hour to get across the north metro. I-35W is not much better. This isn’t a problem just where these freeways meet at the Arden Hills site, but miles down the road.
Imagine a Thursday night football game, or any event, scheduled at an Arden Hills stadium on a day other than Sunday. The majority of Minnesotans would need to drive through a major metro area to get to the site versus driving in to the metro area if a stadium were built in Minneapolis. (Or even St. Paul.)
Arden Hills doesn’t make sense for a couple reasons. The first is the obvious economic and political hypocrisy of providing unnecessary support to multi-billion dollar industry when we can’t keep our basic public services open. (But we’re Americans and sadly don’t seem to care about this stuff anymore.) The second is the inefficient and inconvenient location of a entirely new development in an undeveloped area when more practical locations are available that have necessary supporting infrastructure.
If we are going to do this — which we almost certainly will do — let’s do it as intelligently and as efficiently as we can. In the end, the Vikings and the Wilfs will still love you. Don’t worry.