In Minnesota we’re in the midst of what is being called a “Stadium Blitz” as state leaders and the Minnesota Vikings rally to complete a deal for a new football stadium for the team. As momentum builds toward some sort of action, it feels like the Vikings are gaining control. That’s bad. If Minnesota is going to give the Vikings money to help them build a stadium, does the stadium have to be entirely on the team’s terms?
If we are going to do this, let’s do this right. Minnesota has already invested hundreds of millions in other sport facilities and the infrastructure to support it.
Two years ago everyone was falling over himself to praise the smart and efficient new stadium the Minnesota Twins now have. Even stadium doubters admitted it seemed to work.
A couple things to keep in mind. First, the new Twins stadium was new, it was trendy, and the Twins were winning that first season. The stadium attracted a pack house night after night throughout the season. Tens of thousands of fans came into the already-dense downtown Minneapolis area without many complaints. Traffic and parking caused few issues.
Restaurants, hotels, and bars obviously enjoyed the benefit of this activity. Instead of pouring out of the city as quickly as their cars would take them away from the dome, more people stayed downtown. Many people opted to use our new light rail and commuter rail lines. Smart urban planning served the businesses around the new stadium well.
Where will these benefits go if a stadium is built in Arden Hills for the Vikings?
For all the people who think a new Arden Hills stadium will spur growth, there are some facts to consider. First, where was the growth around the Metrodome when it was built? I can think of only one restaurant/bar that survived near the stadium. One cannot point to much commercial or residential development around the dome either.
Second, we have a glut of office space in the Twin Cities now. Is a fresh development going to change that? We do stubbornly hang on to our supply-side myths, don’t we? For most people Arden Hills is not convenient, building a stadium complex won’t change that. Moreover, people look for amenities — things that already exist in our downtowns — when looking for an attractive place to work. Developing in the shadow of a giant stadium and its apron of asphalt parking hardly seems attractive.
Third, we are being asked to repeat infrastructure investments we have already made for our downtowns. Parking, freeways, and public transportation investments have been made and continue to grow to serve Minneapolis and St. Paul. There is not a good argument, especially in this era of austerity, for redundancy.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is a developer. The Arden Hills munitions site is a large open space in a large urban area. Is anyone surprised that the Arden Hills is Wilf’s first choice? Is anyone surprised that it is increasingly sounding like it is Wilf’s only choice? Who’s best interest is served by choosing this site?
It increasingly feels like Wilf and the Vikings have won the battle for public funding. Something will get done. Now they are fine-tuning their victory so they get the site that they want. The extra costs — both direct and indirect — of using this prime space for a single private interest is being missed by politicians and supporters eager to see a stadium built.
It is true that we have had years to resolve this issue, but issues like this don’t get attention on a timely and prudent schedule. But never forget, haste makes waste, and right now we don’t seem to be moving toward our best long-term interests with the direction stadium plans are going now.
If we are going to pump public dollars into this stadium project — which we almost certainly will do — shouldn’t we optimize our existing investments? Shouldn’t we build something that will focus the future economic benefits on business and communities that currently serve our region? In short…shouldn’t we do this right?
- Governor to push Vikings stadium in Arden Hills (espn.go.com)
- Vikings owner dismisses critical stadium report (espn.go.com)
- Why Arden Hills is a Bad Idea for a Vikings Stadium (alittletourinyellow.wordpress.com)