Governor Mark Dayton
Mayor R.T. Rybak
Minneapolis City Council
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It’s not too late to do the right thing.
There’s still time to stop this egregious public handout –in the form of a sparkling new publicly-financed stadium — to the ownership of the Minnesota Vikings, a privately-owned sports and entertainment franchise in a league, the NFL, that’s a government-sanctioned unregulated monopoly.
There’s still time to say “No!” to the behind-the-scenes dealing and still time to say “Yes!” to a voter referendum that respects your taxpayers.
Zygi Wilf, and his brother Mark, bought the Vikings in 2005 for $600 million. According to Forbes, the franchise is now worth $774 million. Not a bad rate of appreciation.
But they want more. They want the boost in franchise value that a publicly-financed stadium would provide. Their strategy is to use the Reverse Robin Hood Effect, “taking from the poor, the working class, and the middle class and giving to the rich,” as sports economist Robert A. Baade describes it.
This whole stadium debate is backwards. If anything, taxpayers — and their government representatives — should be demanding that the Vikings share some of their profits with taxpayers since taxpayers are in essence business partners with Vikings’ ownership due to the fact the public built the Metrodome for the Vikings to play their games in.
While Zygi and family are doing just fine, the state of Minnesota is looking at a projected $3.8 billion deficit this year. Is this the time for the state and the city of Minneapolis to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to a private entity in the sports and entertainment business?
The Vikings are proposing a stadium with a $1 billion price tag. And that’s a number that could still grow. In case after case of publicly-financed stadium deals around the country, taxpayers end up paying more than advertised due to the dreaded “cost overruns.” It’s the use of ugly “bait and switch” tactics. Reports on this Vikings stadium deal say that potential cost overruns “still have to be ironed out.” Taxpayers beware! Minnesotans, activate yourselves!
Let’s be clear, a new football stadium for the local pro football franchise, is NOT a public works project. Public works projects are bridges, roads, sewers, drinking water systems, public transit, etc., the basic infrastructure of a community. In addition to these types of projects, taxpayer dollars should be utilized for boosting up our schools, along with providing necessary services like police and fire protection. Transferring dollars from taxpayers to pro sports franchise owners certainly doesn’t qualify as a project that addresses the public necessities of the community.
Here’s a key consideration as you analyze this stadium plan: Rarely do these public stadium projects provide any significant economic benefits to the community. The gross and net job gains are pathetically small, especially given the level of public investment and the few games played over the course of a year.
In fact, Stanford economist Roger Noll believes the estimated jobs effect of a subsidized sports facility is actually negative because spending at the stadium substitutes for spending elsewhere for which a greater number of people are employed per dollar spent. Noll emphatically states that publicly-financed stadiums are not a net local economic benefit.
Do you want a safe bet? Zygi Wilf (or whoever the Vikings’ owner might be in the years ahead) will be back in 15-20 years demanding a refurbished or new stadium. As Neil deMause, author of Field of Schemes, says, “The only thing limiting how soon owners will ask for a new stadium is chutzpah.”
Minnesota politicians still have a chance to do the right thing and take a pass on this corporate welfare plan, this giveaway of taxpayer dollars. It will require not caving in to “stadium fatigue.” It will also take courage to ignore the many “woe is me” claims from Zygi Wilf, whose investment in the Vikings is paying off just fine.
“Publicly funded sports stadiums are like crack cocaine to local politicians and business bigwigs,” says Michael Lynch of Reason magazine. “These folks are just like addicts: They deceive everyone around them for the sake of a fix and rarely take no for an answer when voters decline to subsidize their schemes.”
As we tell our kids when we warn them about the dangers of addictive drugs, it’s important to “Just Say No!” when it comes to the dangerous allure of publicly-financed stadiums.
Ralph Nader, Founder, League of Fans
Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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