Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dollars & Sense - All Glass Everything

The latest wave of stadium renovations has brought about some imaginative ideas for how to build a mega sports palace.  When the pockets of billionaire owners are deepened by the seemingly endless yet also cash-strapped wallets of their city and state governments – and by extension, your wallet, if you live there – the imagination roams free with uninhibited reckless abandon. 

If you have not seen the designs for the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium plan, then you should surely check them out.  The all-glass structure to let the beautiful sunlight in through its non-retractable roof looks to be on the same futuristic level as the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium design.  Some say it looks like it should be on a Sandcrawler.  I think it looks like one of those robots from the old show Robot Wars.

Whatever your opinion is of the design, we can at least all agree that it is an ode to excess.  Just as the Falcons design is.  Just as is Marlins Park or Cowboy Stadium or the new Yankee Stadium.  

And as the rich get rich and we continue to privatize profits while publicizing debts, it is impossible to ignore the hefty price tag that will fall squarely on the shoulders of the Minnesota (namely Minneapolis) taxpayers. 
In total, the price tag of the new stadium is estimated to be in the $975 million range (I can’t imagine what they had to give up to keep the tag under $1 billion).  Almost half, $427 million to be exact, will come from the Vikings and a loan from the NFL.  The rest - $548 million – will come from the state of Minnesota ($398 million) and the city of Minneapolis ($150 million).  That means the Vikings’ new stadium will be 54% publicly financed, fourth most out of the last 10 NFL stadiums built.

According to Forbes, Minnesota senator John Marty estimated that under the current financing structure, the new Vikings stadium would cost the taxpayers $77.30 per ticket per game for 30 years.  And apparently the estimated does not even include the tax exemptions that the Vikings and the construction will receive in yet another sweetheart lease deal.

Funding for the project is already hitting a snag as the state tax on electronic pull tabs that was supposed to generate the first wave of revenue has come up short.  This is all coming from a state government that has already proposed $2 billion in new taxes and looked to cut $150 million from the state Health and Human Services budget that has already sustained over $1 billion in reductions in the past two years.  Oh yea, the state has a deficit of $627 million too (yes it is progress from the $1.1 billion that it was when Gov. Dayton took over two years ago).

Meanwhile, the anti-public-funding for the stadium oppositions continues to gain traction.  The problem is not necessarily that the rich get richer; it is how they are doing it.  We are living in a day and age where we pay more, get less, and are left wondering where exactly our money is going.  The people of Minnesota know where this money is going, and it is going straight into the pockets of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and the NFL. 
With the government strapped for cash, their actions should be rooted in righting the course, not playing into billionaire profiteering.  If only the world were as transparent as the new Vikings’ stadium will be.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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