Friday, July 18, 2014

Without Much Strain?

This story contains a number of jaw-dropping assertions.  I was hoping it was an ironic parody, but the New York Times doesn't really have enough self-confidence to be ironic.  It's just painfully earnest, shading over into earnestly painful.


When city leaders and state legislators agreed last year to fund roughly half the $1 billion cost of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, they attached the usual strings for such projects: It had to be architecturally iconic, employ steel made from Minnesota iron ore and offer at least a few cheap seats. 

So... Minnesota has a total population of 5.4 million souls.  Minneapolis has a population of just under 500,000, if you count the surrounding cities like St. Paul.  They need a $1 billion football stadium?  Really?  And taxpayers need to pay for half of it?  That's $2,000 per resident of the Minneapolis metroplex.  For a sports stadium that will be used, at most, 30 times per year, even counting monster truck shows.  The state is going to hit up taxpayers $1,000 per resident of the city to pay for a football stadium.  That's not $1,000 per fan, that's $1,000 per resident, in tax money.

That's the NYTimes' idea of "saving"?  Well, at least they have cheap seats.  Which will be scalped to rich people anyway.  Because the poor folks would prefer to have the money than the cheap/expensive seat.

I guess it's okay, though.  Knowing that they are using locally-mined, free-range artisanal iron gives folks a warm glow.  Because you should make sure and create giant, dirty mines as near as possible to where you live.  Oh, and the bathrooms will all be lit with $25 LED bulbs, too.  So that's something.

I guess Nick Gillespie just isn't a football fan.  Because he doesn't get it.

Seriously, the NYTimes is demonstrating a pretty remarkable support for crony capitalism here.  There is no conceivable "stimulus" justification, and the environmental justification is nonsense.  This is a giant waste of money, a giveaway from taxpayers to highly profitable large corporations.  And a perfect description of the program of the Democratic Party in the U.S.  Also the Republican Party in the U.S.

Nod to MK, who notes:  "I'm in the wrong business.  If a small amount of carbon is worth $500 million, I should set my hair on fire and sell the right to put it out on Ebay!"


Anonymous said...

Twin Cities population is greater than 3 million.

Dirty Davey said...

There's also an extortion angle: "You've got a nice football team here. It'd be a pity if it moved to Los Angeles."

And there are a lot of voters who actually think that giving a massive handout is preferable to not having an NFL team.

Thomas W said...

The "extortion angle" has become business as usual. Sports teams routinely see how much money they can get out of host governments, threating to move if the money isn't provided.

The same is true of business. A big part of Boeing's decision when it moved to Chicago was which city would provide the most goodies.

I'm seeing this locally. The mall in town is being rebuilt and the city is paying 1/3 of the cost. They're using "certificates of participation" (essentially mortgaging four city buildings) to pay the city's part. This is Colorado, to simply issue bonds they'd need a popular vote, so politicians figured out how to sidestep the State constitution.

The mall has been deteriorating for years and changed hands a couple times. Everybody near the mall jumped into be added to the area declared "blighted" (or something of the sort) and the developers and retailers are holding out of whatever they can get from the city before moving in.

Thomas W said...

By the way, when I looked at the NY Times article it had a rather interesting story in the "elsewhere on" list. Seems to deserve at least a Monday link mention.${CAMPAIGN_ID}

Anonymous said...

Would it make you feel better that no one here really put up a fight about building a $1 Billion stadium for millionaires? Or that we have a governor that pushed for the stadium while at the same time complaining about income inequality?

Anonymous said...

These kinds of expenditures need to be put into proper perspective. Nearly all taxpayer funded projects benefit private industry. That does not make them wrong. Road construction benefits the contractors and subs. School building benefits contractors, plumbers electricians etc. the examples are endless. Sports stadiums are an easy target because. They are so visible. Does having a NFL team help a city lure new businesses? Of course it does. Rich people tend to get richer. Complainers tend to complain.

Pelsmin said...

Anonymous --

I'll say it, cause the rest of us are thinking it.

There is a BIG difference.

All public expenditures benefit private industry, sure, like the contractors who build the bridge linking the city to the suburbs, etc. But the end result benefits far more people than just the contractor. THAT is the difference. When the bakery fixes the broken window it benefits the glazier, but spending the money on another oven would have benefited the oven maker AND the baker AND the people who eat bread.

So building the stadium benefits the contractor. It helps the team owner. But if it added value to the fans, they would pay for it themselves. When the state does it, you short circuit the market and destroy value.

Anonymous said...

It is not my intention to argue with strangers. However... The Metrodome,which this stadium will replace. was used about 300 days per year, not 30. It employed roughly 3000 people per year. A new stadium will create value for the fans and they do help pay for it by buying tickets. Does it create value for the Vikings? certainly. It also creates value in many ways for the city, and the state of Minnesota. A new stadium benefits many more people and businesses than just those who build it.

Anonymous said...

"A new stadium benefits many more people and businesses than just those who build it."

Come on, it's just good old fashion crony capitalism. The voters are dupes.

John said...

I've always thought NASCAR was an interesting counterexample.

A NASCAR Speedway costs several times as much as a football stadium. It needs track, garages, several times the land and so on.

NASCAR teams also cost several multiples of a football team to field. Top teams, anyway. (A pitcrew jack man earns $350,000 per year)

Yest somehow these speedways manage to get built with private money.

NASCAR must be losing lots and lots of money.


John Henry

Hasdrubal said...

You can read about how easy it is for "economic impact assessments" to overrepresent the value of sports stadiums here:

But, really, take a look at Minneapolis itself: While the Metrodome was hosting 300 events a year, where was the economic growth? The area around the Metrodome never grew or gentrified, the most interesting thing about the area was that the Strib headquarters were a couple blocks away.

And now you have the Twins stadium (How many of those 300 Metrodome events were Twins games?) downtown. Where's the growth? I still go to the same bars on Nicollet Mall and First Ave two years after it opened that I did two years before it opened. Then there's TCF Stadium for the Gophers, (How many of those 300 events a year were Gopher games?) and there's not the least bit of growth down Central Ave after that was constructed. Light Rail construction may have screwed some of that up, but everyone _still_ heads over to Nicollet or First Ave after Gopher games.

Where's the new economic growth?

Finally, what's the marginal benefit of a THIRD stadium built in the same city FOR AN EXISTING TEAM going to be? Do you think there's any way possible for a Football Only stadium to generate the same amount of growth as the previous Pro/College Football/Baseball stadium did? Sure the stadium will be nicer. That will encourage some more people to go, but enough more to pay interest on a billion dollar investment, much less the principle?