January 19, 2005
Stadium season is upon us
The Vikings season is over and Spring Training doesn't begin until March. That can only mean one thing, that stadium season is in full swing. Jay Weiner of the Star Tribune wrote a great series of articles yesterday, one that discusses the probable factors that could result in stadium-building success, and one that discusses in chart form past successes (Xcel Energy Center) and failures (all the rest). Of the two TC dailies stadium beat writers, Aron Kahn of the PiPress and Jay Weiner, I find Weiner's articles on the topic to be the best and most indicative of the chances for stadium success this session. In a word, I would say that Weiner's views on the possibility of something getting done this session are "tepid." Let's take a look.
First of all, Weiner beats home what he sees as the factors for stadium success. These are mainly taken from the success St. Paul had in building the Xcel Energy Center. They include:
- A determined governor (where have you gone Arne Carlson?)
- A site specific proposal (The Twins are going to have to make a decision)
- A bonding bill that can be used to barter with (Carlson refused to sign the bonding bill unless it included funding for the X)
- A simple financing package (the X was built with 50% coming from a state loan to be paid back by the Wild in the form of rent and 50% by taxing St. Paul. No referendum was needed and I dare say St. Paul residents are pretty happy with the deal.)
- Firm support from the proposed site's legislative delegation (Minneapolis legislators have been horrible in their support for a Twins stadium. St. Paul has a leg up here I would think.)
- And possibly the on-field success of the team (I would not include this. The Twins have won their division three times and they haven't gotten any further on solving this problem).
Looking at all these factors, I would say the chances of them all happening again at the same time are not very good. However, I do agree that possibly the most important of all of these factors is having a governor that is willing to go out on a limb and fully support building a stadium. That is how the Xcel Energy Center was built and that is how 4 stadiums were built in Pennsylvania. My hero, Tom Ridge, made building stadiums a top priority and got the job done. Now we have the possibility of an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl. Coincidence? I think not.
Other interesting tidbits from the above articles include:
"The best chance of a stadium getting done is if it's part of other big issues getting done," said Blois Olson, the Democrat coeditor of MNPolitics.com. "But Pawlenty is vulnerable [in 2006] if nothing gets done again, including a stadium. "
I find this interesting and a little frightening. If the Democrats think Pawlenty is vulnerable in 2006 and that not building a stadium would help in making him more vlunerable, I think it stands to reason that they could intentionally throw up some road blocks on the stadium front. I sure hope not.
Twins Sports Inc. President Jerry Bell, who has been owner Carl Pohlad's stadium point man for 10 years, hinted recently in an interview that the team might be ready to pick the city it prefers and, finally, bring a site-specific bill to the Legislature.
I had not heard this, but I am relieved to hear it now. Has anyone elese heard what location Bell is rumored to be favoring? I would think it would be the Warehouse District in Minneapolis, but the Minneapolis legislative delegation are a bunch of worthless stiffs. Maybe the Twins would favor St. Paul because they have proven they can get something done?
But even last session, with a deficit, the Twins inched close to a ballpark deal with state backing. A key moment came in May in a House Ways and Means Committee hearing.
The conditions were these: state deficit lower than in previous years; Hennepin County and St. Paul had their own sites and finance plans; and, at a committee hearing, two metro-wide taxes, in existence but poised to expire at the end of 2005, were amended to the bill.
A rental car tax -- mostly paid by tourists -- and an alcohol tax could have funded the state's piece of a ballpark.
But using taxes that are now going into the general fund and a tax that had to be extended were -- and remain -- off limits to the Pawlenty administration.
As much as I want to get my hopes up for the use of these two soon-to-be-expired taxes, I know better. Pawlenty would consider these to be new taxes, and he has already made numerous pledges against creating any new taxes. As much as I want something like this to work, I just don't see it flying.
The sad thing is that the extra money that could be gained from these two taxes is sorely needed, especially for a potential Vikings stadium. When you look at Pawlenty's TIF plan, it works great for the Twins because they play 81 games a year at home. There is tons of new tax money from the TIF plan to help pay for the stadium. Not so for the Vikings and their 10 games a year. I remember Abrams just badgering Lester Bagley last year in committee, demanding that Bagley tell him where all the extra money was going to come from. So, again, the TIF plan works great for the Twins, and not so great for the Vikings. Extra money will need to come from somewhere if the Vikings will finally get a new home.
Then today, there was another great article in the Strib concerning a possible stadium construction timeline. Just reading it made my eyes water. Take a look at the first two dates:
Spring 2005: The Legislature approves construction of a $235 million 50,000-seat stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.
The Legislature approves a $535 million, 42,000-seat Twins ballpark with a retractable roof, in either Minneapolis or St. Paul.
Gulp. Wouldn't that be something? It is completely possible, and completely within the power of the state legislature to finally figure out, but I will be amazed if something like this happens. Anyway, the timeline also raises some other interesting questions, especially in regards to a new Vikings stadium or a renovated Dome. It suggests that government officials in the area are loathe to not use the Metrodome site for something since so much work has been done on the infrastructure in the area:
It is at a vortex of freeways and now light rail, and it's a familiar destination for fans.
"It doesn't seem right to get rid of all the infrastructure investments that have been made on that site," said Minneapolis City Council Member Scott Benson.
He's right, and I'm afraid if something doesn't get done in Anoka County, this may be the only option the Vikings have. A recent article in the Pioneer Press said as much:
But the potential of the project is too great to give up on now, say stadium supporters. The 740-acre parcel, on the interstate between two interchanges, will be developed soon — with or without the stadium.
And if the opportunity is lost, it would be the end of the only real plan to ensure that Minnesota doesn't lose the Vikings, said Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley.
"I think this is the last chance to keep the Vikings," Betzold said.
That is a little pessimistic, but it is certainly the only plan on the table. These kinds of quotes and sound bites lead me to believe, though, that if Anoka County falls through, the Dome renovation plan mentioned by Weiner above may be the Vikings only option. And that plan would require a new Gopher's stadium.
So much to ponder, and so much "real" work to get done. Let me know what you think.
Posted by snackeru at January 19, 2005 8:22 AM | Stadiums
Yeah, things are starting to heat up. I have heard rumors of meetings between Twins, Mayors, Indians, and Governors, in all possible combinations, flying all over the place. Don't discount the possibility of the Vikings playing in a new Gopher's stadium while the Metrodome is either renovated or torn down and rebuilt. This would take the sting out of it for Minneapolis after St. Paul lands the Twins. Interestingly enough, I took part in a phone poll last night that was obviously a Randy Kelly paid for poll. Besides all the other questions regarding whether I supported the Mayor's endorsement of Bush, his housing plan, not raising property taxes, etc.... a specific question asked was if I supported a 3% bar and restaurant tax that would help build a downtown ballpark for the Twins. You know my answer, but to my suprise, the pollster told my that this was the question that almost all the people she has polled agreed upon. And this call was coming from Ohio! This lady new nothing of our stadium situation. This sure put a hop in my step the rest of the evening. Bring on a referendum. St. Paul will go head to head with Minneapolis, Hennipen County or anyone west of the ol' Miss. With the Wild on hold, there has been alot of info regarding how much St. Paul is losing in their extra 1/2 cent sales tax that usually goes to the neighborhoods or the arts (the STAR fund). I think St. Paulites are finally realizing the impact sports has on downtown even though it took an NHL strike to do so. And if this all goes down in flames again this session, I am going to re-email my Tom Ridge contact and see if we can get him onboard if need be.
Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at January 19, 2005 12:10 PM
Judging by the comments made by the Governor yesterday, the Vikings should push for a stadium in Rochester.
Excellent work. I will be watching your continued efforts to enlighten the masses on the stadium issues.
Posted by: Stick and Ball Guy at January 19, 2005 1:07 PM
SBG, thanks for the kind words. I will definitely be writing more about this in the near future. I can't help myself.
Jim, I was thrilled to read that the pollster found that the majority of St Paul residents support the 3% sales tax. That is awesome!!! How do you get so lucky to get so much juicy information? One more thing, I was wondering what your ideal stadium financing plan would be? What kind of plan do you support? I'll be writing about this more in the future, but I was wondering if you had an ideal plan that you just know would work. I'd be very interested to hear your views (or anyone else's views that would like to share for that matter).
Thanks for stopping by. Let's keep hope alive.
Posted by: Shane at January 19, 2005 4:18 PM