Facts vital in stadium issue [UPDATED]Published 10:28am Monday, April 23, 2012 Updated 12:29pm Monday, April 23, 2012
In my quest not to get extremely angry at the individual members of the House legislative committee that killed the proposal to help finance a Vikings stadium, I’m attempting to, as I do when I miss a short putt or hit a ball out of bounds, take a deep breath, relax and gain perspective.
Everyone knows what the argument is for using public financing for building a stadium. If we don’t, the Vikings will eventually leave.
The NFL commissioner was in town Friday to reiterate that point, and rumor was that Vikings owner Zigi Wilf flew to Southern California this week to explore his options. If they leave, it will take a lot of time and great deal more money to bring an NFL — the most popular professional sports league in the country — team back to Minnesota, if another team ever comes. And as a Vikings fan, I clearly can see what I would lose if the team left.
What I’m trying to figure out is what exactly those who are so opposed to public financing for stadiums feel they have to gain. Here are the things, I gather.
Money for more important things: That continues to be the argument: Why should we use public funds on a stadium when we should be using it for, fill in the blank (education, health care, roads, etc.)? It’s absolutely true that there are more important things than football. However, history shows that, if Vikings stadium funding isn’t approved, the public funding mechanisms considered for it will not — and will never — be approved for the “more important things.” The only thing that may come out of it would be:
Lower taxes: Stadium funding proposals likely would come from an added sales tax from the city where the stadium would be located. If you spend a night or weekend in downtown Minneapolis, for example, you’ll notice the extra taxes when you get your bill. Of course, downtown hotels and restaurants are so expensive anyway that a sales tax is pretty much irrelevant. And if you don’t visit there, you won’t pay the taxes. There’s also a risk that the state funding mechanism might not cover the state’s portion of the tab, which means general funds would be used. However, the likelihood is that the Legislature would instead find another similar type of funding source, which brings me to my next benefit of not funding a stadium.
Saving gambling addicts: The primary proposal would be to fund the state’s portion of the stadium through gambling revenues. So I guess if you are under the belief that the expansion of gambling will lead to additional residents who have gambling problems, then I guess we save a few souls. Maybe there are studies that can back that up. But I’m under the opinion that if you have a gambling addiction, there are more than enough casinos, bingo halls, pulltab jars and c-store lottery ticket outlets to satisfy your craving.
Protection for the Native Americans: If we don’t expand gambling, then the Native Americans who have a stake in the 18 casinos will be better off. Anyone who has been on, for example, the White Earth Indian Reservation can attest that, considering the poverty, the Native American population certainly can use the money. Why would we take that away from them, the argument states.
However, my issue is that it certainly isn’t that black and white. Expansion of gambling in the Twin Cities area — let’s say placing slot machines at Canterbury Downs in Shakopee, for example – would create competition for Mystic Lake Casino in Shakopee. The tribe that owns Mystic Lake Casino has 200 members. One news report I found explained that each member makes a large six-figure income every year from Mystic Lake Casino profits. It’s not exactly the poverty stricken picture that is typically painted.
In fact, leaders of the White Earth Reservation — a tribe that does indeed deal with severe poverty issues — have proposed building a casino in the Twin Cities and sharing the profits for the purpose of financing a stadium. So far, the proposal has fallen on deaf ears.
The satisfaction that we won’t help a billionaire: It is patently unfair that Minnesotans living paycheck to paycheck are paying taxes of any kind – after all, gambling revenues could be used for other purposes – so a filthy rich NFL team owner can get a multi-million dollar public subsidy to build a stadium that he will make millions off of.
But the problem is, if we don’t give Vikings owner Zigi Wilf his stadium, he won’t shell out the money himself for a new stadium, and he won’t sit back and accept that the Metrodome is his team’s only option. He will either sell the team — likely for a nice profit — to someone who will move it somewhere else where public financing will be used to build a stadium, or he will move it there himself.
That’s not fair either. At least in the first unfair scenario, the Vikings stay here.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org