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December 16, 2004


Dave points out in a comment an inaccuracy in my post below that should be addressed, and that I have already fixed. I have also found another. First of all, as Dave points out, Linda Cropp's amendment requires that 1/2 the stadium funding come from private sources, not necessarily the owner(s) of the Washington Nationals. Secondly, a $270 million 30 year loan at 6% interest would cost approx. $19 million per year, not $15. A 5% loan would cost approx. $17 million per year to pay off. A mathematical genius I am not, especially early in the morning when I usually type these things out.

Sigh. The more I think about all this stadium mumbo jumbo the more I start thinking about how many times we've been here before. Another year, another try for a Twins stadium. When will this all end? Some of you may be wondering actually what kind of stadium plan I would favor, since I write about it so much, and truthfully it is tough to really pinpoint since I would support any plan that would work.

For example, I would support the state picking up the tab for the entire costs of all three stadiums if that plan suddenly became feasible. If alien look-a-likes infiltrated the Minnesota legislature and decided to fund all three stadiums by taxing anyone that gets a haircut on Tuesday or drives a Buick Lesabre I would support this plan whole-heartedly. Buick Lesabre drivers like the Twins, don't they? Or, if Pohlad suddenly had a change of heart due to the fact that he was visited by the ghosts of stadium proposals past, present, and future who showed him the error of his ways causing him to not only build his own stadium, but also devote the rest of his life to dancing the hokey-pokey ... well I would think that was just dandy too. I really don't care. The state can pay for it, the city can pay for it, Pohald can pay for it, all three entities can pay for it, I really don't care, let's just figure something out!

Let me get specific and realistic, though. The plan I like the best is if the Native American casinos help build the stadiums. They have already said they are willing to do this and it really is a win-win situation. The state would finally get this mess out of the way, there would be no new taxes or taxes of any kind, and the Native Americans would look like heroes. Secondly, I really liked the plan to extend the recently expired car rental and liquor taxes in the Twin Cities to pay for the stadiums. Extending the taxes would not have been a tax increase at all and people that didn't want participate could have found alternatives. Finally, I didn't think the "racino" idea was too bad either, or just putting slots at Canterbury Downs. I would play those slots every chance I got if I knew they would help fund a Twins stadium.

Of course, there are other financing options as well. In fact, there are tons of options: lottery scratch games, a taxing district around the stadium, game day parking fees, stadium parking ramps that capture revenue even on days without games, sports memorabilia taxes, ticket taxes, personal seat licenses, a tax on food and drink at the stadium. The list goes on and on. Linda Cropp, the D.C. city council chairwoman, has already said that private financing strategies have already been suggested there:

One under consideration involves use of profits from parking near the stadium and another would transfer ownership of the stadium to a private group in a lease-back arrangement.

There are so many different options, I can't believe we, as Minnesotans, aren't smart enough to put together a plan that works.

Because here is what will happen this legislative session. Steve Sviggum and the House will push for the TIF financing method. It is solid and it doesn't increase taxes or use money from the general fund. Secondly, Pohlad will be required to make a $120 million upfront contribution and it will be like pulling teeth to even get him to agree to that. Finally, the host community will be given the chance to vote on a referendum to create taxes on bars, restaurants, or hotels in that community to pay for the rest of the stadium. The handwriting is on the wall.

This plan sucks! I'll take the TIF and Pohald's contribution, but the community taxes will not fly. I would agree with Jim in St. Paul that St. Paul probably has the best chance of passing a referendum, but with the NHL labor strike I would think most of the residents of St. Paul have soured towards professional sports. With all these other financing options why can't we come up with something that doesn't use a tax in the host community? Why can't we combine all of these other methods and create something that works and doesn't tax someone that doesn't want to pay for the stupid stadium?

I don't know where I'm going with this. So, I'll stop rambling now. Let me just end by saying I sincerely hope that the Minnesota legislature doesn't put the fate of the Twins in the hands of the people through a referendum. It won't work and we'll be back where we started next year.

I'm going on vacation for the next two weeks so this will probably be it for stadium rants (unless some really big news comes out). I will still be posting (intermittently) in the next two weeks, but I will probably be focusing on family and Christmas. See you soon.

Posted by snackeru at December 16, 2004 6:06 PM | Stadiums


Thanks for the shout-out, Shane.

Seriously, though, I don't think the problem is that we're not smart enough here in the Midwest to figure out how to get a stadium built. After all, the DC situation looks very reasonable to a fan, or at least I think so.

The problem is that MLB doesn't want a reasonable solution - MLB wants total capitulation. And it seems like they want it on everything, from stadiums to labor relations. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Bud Selig supported a law to allow MLB owners the right to sleep with the bride on the first night of a baseball fan's honeymoon.

On the other hand, if the state built the U a new Gophers stadium, and gave the Gophers ticket and concession money but funnelled parking money into a fund to repay the stadium bonds and then, once the bonds are paid, into the general fund, I think the U would say "Yes, thank you, you guys are great, we love this deal!" MLB and the NFL would turn their noses up at it or make threats or both. Small wonder that there's always been more public support for a Gophers stadium than one for the Twins or Vikings, even if it might mean the latter leave town. (and the former can't!)

I also think (as long as this is turning into a long-winded rant) that MLB and the NFL are looking at the current NHL lockout as a good strategy - somebody's finally standing up to those players and showing them who the boss is. Except of course, that the NHL is committing slow suicide and they don't know it. The best NHL players are Europeans and Russians, and there's no reason for them to come back after the lockout if the money isn't there. And though Wild fans, and Canadian fans, will come back once the lockout is over, can you really see a renaissance of interest in Phoenix? In Dallas? In Florida? In other words, all those cities the NHL 'expanded' into as a way of increasing their revenue?

But MLB will be able to announce their own lockout soon - before the full self-destructive impact of the NHL's hard-line stance is completely known. And like the Pied Piper, Bud Selig is going to march MLB over that same precipice, all in the name of cost certainty.

Anybody want to build the Saints a new ballpark? Call it 'Murray Field'?

Posted by: David Wintheiser at December 17, 2004 2:40 PM

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