Vikings Stadium Cited In Public Subsidy Debate
Minneapolis’ $1 billion Vikings Stadium won’t be open for business for a little more than a year, but it is already enmeshed in a national conversation about the funding of professional sports facilities.
In a Monday Wall Street Journal article, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen defended the use of tax-exempt bonds to pay for the stadium. She pointed to $800 million in construction of new office towers, apartments and a medical clinic that followed news of the Vikings Stadium’s construction. Indeed, the Downtown East neighborhood has been the subject of development talks in recent years.
“I defy anyone to come here and tell us that this stadium has not generated significant economic development, and I guarantee you there is more to come,” she told the newspaper.
But economists and other academics argue that the subsidies—which shift costs from private owners to local residents—aren’t worth their costs. One economist told the Journal that income growth, tax growth and employment growth does not correspond with the addition of a flashy (and costly) new stadium. The newspaper noted that President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget calls for barring such bonds to finance pro sports facilities. The Treasury Department says banning municipalities from issuing the bonds would save the federal government $542 million over 10 years.
A look at Minneapolis’ skyline reveals how the city’s pro sports facility landscape has changed since the multipurpose Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was built in 1982 for $68 million. In 2009, the University of Minnesota’s football team left the stadium for its own $300 million digs. The Twins followed suit a year later when their $500 million ballpark opened—roughly $350 million of which was funded using subsidies.