Friday, April 29, 2011

Stadiums, stadiums, stadiums!

In Minnesota, a few things seem to be a given: taxes, winter, and stadium controversies. From the new Twins stadium (Target field) to the new Gophers stadium (“The Bank”), to the national spectacle of the Metrodome collapsing under the weight of a Minnesota blizzard, we have all gotten a heavy dose of stadium talk. Currently, the state legislature is considering a stadium financing bill, SF1164, which would pay for a new stadium for the Vikings with about 2/3 public money.[1] This proportion is not out of line with to the proportion of public money that has been used for other NFL stadiums and not anywhere near the 86% deal the Indianapolis Colts managed[2].

An October 2010 Star Tribune poll showed that 75% on Minnesotans oppose public funding for a new Vikings stadium.[3] Interestingly, public funding for stadiums does not appear to be a partisan issue, with nearly the same level of opposition among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.[4] This is not to say, however, that it isn’t a highly charged political issue.

The crux of the argument that stadium proponents make is that stadiums spur job growth, boost economic development in the area and increase tax revenue. Supporters including the Vikings themselves, through lobbyist Lester Bagley, and the citizens’ advocacy group “SaveTheVikes”, rely heavily on these arguments.[5] Many economists have examined this premise, and there is shockingly wide-spead agreement (among economists!!) that stadiums provide little, if any, of the promised economic benefits.[6]

Opponents of a new Vikings stadium use the current state budget deficit as a primary objection.[7] While stadium funding would not directly compete with other services, especially those funded by general revenue, the perception is there and there is a real opportunity cost- if you tax for a stadium, this presumably limits ability to tax for other purposes.

Stadium funding is not one of those issues that the average person doesn’t like, but that economic theories suggest we should do anyways. This is a values choice. If people sufficiently value the existence of their teams for the pure enjoyment of them, then go ahead. But so long as citizens have other, higher priorities? Keep it off the table.


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