The agreement to build a new Minnesota Vikings football stadium in Minneapolis features a key difference from the plan to build the project in Ramsey County and even from the Minnesota Twins' new Target Field.What does "first-class" mean? In the case of Indianapolis, which built the Colts their Xanadu a few years back, it meant new taxes:
Once it is built, any Vikings stadium operating cost overruns ultimately will be the public's responsibility.
And not just overruns. The public will be legally obligated to maintain the stadium "in a manner that is first-class and consistent with comparable" National Football League stadiums -- a clause that could translate into substantial future costs.
Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis opened in 2008 and when the stadium's operating costs quickly exceeded projections, the pressure fell on the Capital Improvement Board, the public body that operates the stadium.Of course, Minneapolis already has an effective sales tax rate of over 10% in the downtown area, which is used for the ongoing cost of the convention center and is now projected to pay for the Minneapolis "share" of the stadium costs, so hiking the local sales tax is likely a non-starter. Adding additional taxes to hotels and motels will make the cost of travel to the Twin Cities more expensive. And would the taxes apply only to downtown hotels, or would it apply to hotels throughout the area? These things matter.
"The operating expenses increased because the new venue -- I don't want to say quite doubled the size -- but it was a much larger venue" than the Colts' older stadium, said Dan Huge, the board's chief financial officer. "There was definitely a step up."
In response to the financial crisis, he said, state lawmakers in Indiana authorized a hotel and motel tax and created a sports development area -- two moves that now generate $11 million a year extra for the operating costs of both the stadium and a nearby convention center.
And what happens if the Vikings get their wish?
In the proposed deal for the Vikings stadium, language is more vague. The public authority would be obligated to operate the stadium in a "first-class" manner "consistent with comparable NFL stadiums, such as, but not limited to, Lucas Oil Stadium."It's not clear if the "public authority" in question would be the existing Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, or if yet another "public authority" would be created to oversee the operations of the new stadium. After all, Target Field has its own public authority, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority. Certainly there needs to be yet another one for this facility -- we need to hire more bureaucrats!
For their part, the Vikings are saying this is what the state officials want:
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said it was the state -- not the team -- that wanted the public to have more control of the new stadium in Minneapolis. Mondale agreed and said that in keeping with Dayton's wishes, "the philosophy in 'the People's Stadium' is that the public would run the stadium."Well, yeah. The public needs more bureaucrats, especially more who are beholden to Mark Dayton and Ted Mondale for their gainful employment.
Meanwhile, consider what happened in Cincinnati:
In Cincinnati, where the NFL's Bengals got a new stadium in 2000, the costs have forced Hamilton County to sell a hospital. Greg Hartmann, the county board president, said the county not only paid for most of the stadium's construction, but also pays for most of its escalating operating costs.
"I'd love to trade with you," he said, in explaining the county's stadium dilemma.
Nah, Mr. Hartmann. We don't trade. We join. And we know we're smarter than everyone else:
"We've done a good job," Mondale told a Senate panel Wednesday. He added later that he is confident state officials have avoided a "long history" of mistakes public officials in other NFL cities have made because they have been distracted by getting a "shiny car."It's shiny, all right.