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April 12, 2006

More stuff no one will probably want to read

• Oh, am I ever feeling it. Yes, I am feeling the "mailaise" that comes when you are so sick of talking about something, but at the same you are so addicted to it you just can't stop. Read or don't read, it is up to you.

• So, I was walking home last Thursday from the bus stop. If you'll recall, last Thursday the Twin Cities saw quite a nice little rain storm, and unfortunately for me my house is a good distance from where the bus drops me off. As I was saying, I was walking home from the bus stop and I was just getting soaking wet. In fact, I was so wet I couldn't even see clearly through all the rain and water on my face. Just as I get up to my house, Cheesehead Craig drives up, sees how drenched I am, rolls down his window and yells out, "God is anti-stadium!" And then he drives away.

Yep, I think he is right. If God isn't anti-stadium in general (over 30 have been built in the U.S. in the last 20 years), He is definitely anti-Twins stadium. So, not only do we have to get past the Taxes commiittee, we've got to get past God too? That is going to be tough.

• Sometimes I think other people should be writing this blog. For about two years I was writing some really good stuff. Stuff full of research and valid points and thought provoking material. Now? I'm not so sure. Anyway, my good buddy freealonzo has sent me a letter he recently wrote to one of the Hennepin County Commissioners. And even though I didn't ask him, I am still going to print it because it is pretty good:

I'm resigned to the fact that I am not going to convince you that your stand on the Twins ballpark is wrong (it is) but I do take issue with your characterization that a 0.0015 percent sales tax means that the Twins Ballpark is being financed "on the backs" of county taxpayers.

First as you well know, with sales tax not applying to clothes or groceries, there is a level of progressivity in our sales tax system. Second, even though the rate is the same on all taxable items, the buying patterns of poorer and richer individuals adds even more progressivity to the system. Here's an example. When you buy a new $40,000 SAAB, with the Twins deal, you pay an additional $60.00 in sales tax. Someone who is a lower income individual may buy a used $8,000 Buick LeSabre at a dealership and is paying $12 additional sales tax. If he's buying it from his cousin, he's probably not paying any sales tax. So two individuals, buying something similar (a car) and you are paying 5 times more sales tax. Same goes for other goods: flat screen TVs v. tube TV, Dinner at Figlio v. Dinner at Arbys, coffee table at Gabberts v. coffee table at Ikea, IAMS dog food v. Purina. Finally if you are so concerned about tax burden, I would think you would run on a platform that changes our practically regressive property tax system! (In the 10 years I've owned my home in East Harriet, my property taxes tripled. Needless to say my income has not tripled over the same time period).

Finally at 0.0015 percent, the tax is minuscule. Even in my $40,000 SAAB example above you are only paying an additional $60.00. For most people, regardless of income, they will hardly even notice the additional tax (less than a dime at a typical Target run). Furthermore, since Hennepin County takes in about 25 percent of its sales tax proceeds from individuals living outside the County, the impact on County residents will be that much smaller. In the end, it strains the imagination to think that the ballpark is being financed "on the backs" of county residents, its more like on the pinky toe of taxpayers.

I know being against a ballpark is a good pander to those active in DFL politics (well except for the construction trades) and will probably take you far in your political career, however hyperbole and scare tactics are a poor way to govern and are a major reason why our electorate is so polarized. Frankly, I'm not impressed.

Amen brother. If anyone else has pro-stadium arguments like this, please send them to me. I'd love to make this a clearing house of truth, justice, mom, and apple pie.

That's all I got for now. Talk to you later.

Posted by snackeru at April 12, 2006 8:22 AM | Stadiums 2006

Comments

I don't think this is a good letter at all. In fact I think it would get an 'F' in an English composition. Why? Because it totally fails to support its main thesis. You can talk all you want about progressivity, relatively small amount, or irrelevancies like property taxes, but in the end it utterly fails to disprove that a sales tax falls 'on the backs' of the taxpayer. A tax is a tax and it is paid by taxpayers. Shane, I think your judgement has been clouded.

Posted by: Gary Fouty at April 12, 2006 9:28 AM

No comment on my "grade" but Gary completely misses the point. Of course taxpayers, by definition, are responsible for paying any tax imposed by the them.

However when someone uses the words "a tax falls on the backs of the taxpayers" they are implying that the tax is a burden and that that the taxpayer will struggle to accommodate that burden. What my letter was trying to demonstrate is that a 0.0015 sales tax increase will not be a burden. Will the taxpayers have to pay it? yes. Will they notice it or have to change their spending patterns to accommodate it? Probably not.

Shane, btw, check out Gollum's column today.

Posted by: freealonzo at April 12, 2006 9:37 AM

Yes, I have read Gollum's piece. I can't help myself. I like Loscalzo. I've read his stuff before. I think he truly wants the best for baseball in Minnesota. But he is getting a little whiny. How does he know the new stadium won't have any "special fan appeal?" Is he seriously against the Hennepin County plan because the ballpark doesn't meet his "special" requirements? Who the heck is this guy that we should trust his vision over the Twins and Hennepin County? Old Gollum will put anything in print just as long as it is anti-stadium.

And Gary, we both have clouded vision, don't you think? What makes us different though is that I'm a Hennepin County resident. Tax away, I say. My pinkie toe can handle it.

Posted by: Shane at April 12, 2006 10:03 AM

Check out the Pioneer Planet today, there is a good article written by Joe Soucheray this morning about how the politicians have struck out on the ballpark issue! Good Read.

Quoted from the article is this snippet "The state of Minnesota could get a new outdoor stadium and keep baseball for 3 cents on $20. We provide our public assistance recipients with enough money to afford 3 cents on $20."

Another quote "And class warfare-ism has been so indoctrinated into our political thinking that Carl Pohlad is the bad guy. Trains good, baseball bad.

Believe me, if the Hiawatha train line had been proposed by Carl Pohlad, we would still be talking about it."

I think this article is a keeper considering it came from a columnist at the Pioneer Planet.

Posted by: Steve at April 12, 2006 10:54 AM

Aside from Coleman's usual rants, I find myself agreeing in principle with the design questions. I've been to a few newer ballparks, and it's true that they really don't offer much to the "average" fan over the "outdated" ballparks. In some cases, where the affordable seats are pushed further up and back (or eliminated altogether), the new ballparks are actually much worse.

Face it: for all the noble talk of saving the Twins, and the fact that the Metrodome is really a football stadium, there is one underlying reason why this stadium is so necessary: to maximize revenue for team ownership and MLB. And those will be the same guiding principles behind the design and construction.

It's not too hard to satisy the crux of Loscalzo's argument without usurping the Twins or Hennepin County: just get a guarantee that there will be a certain number of affordable seats within a reasonable a distance from the field. I know the Twins ballpark literature has some generalities about "affordable tickets", but I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: spycake at April 12, 2006 12:47 PM

If Spycake wants affordable tickets, then I'm sure he supports 100% public financing of the ballpark. Less money the Twins have to pay for the ballpark, means less they have to charge for tickets :o)

Seriously, Spycake makes some good points. Unfortunately due to its location, the new ballpark is not going to be another Camden Yards, or Wrigley Field. That's probably ok as I think that trend has been played out. However we should expect some modern amenities like open concourses and some older ones like a funky outfield layout and seats that face home plate.

Design features such as brick and decent landscaping and other nice architectural features should also be in play. Also, please cheap seats that aren't a million miles away.

Posted by: freealonzo at April 12, 2006 1:35 PM

Um, if my memory serves me, Metropolitan Stadium had absolutely no special fan amenities either. It was a simple, erector set ballpark which took an hour and a half to exit when half full. He wanted to save that piece of rusty crap but he's finding fault with the new stadium??? What am I missing here??????

Posted by: kevin in az at April 12, 2006 8:57 PM

Kevin,
Don't you know? Everything from the "old days" is better than what is going to come. They don't have to prove it was, just fondly recall how they were and use abstract feelings to make their point.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at April 13, 2006 12:17 PM

Kevin, I don't think "special fan amenities" is what Loscalzo is talking about. Metropolitan Stadium was an outdoor park that had a few decks of close, affordable general seating, with several overhangs available if you wanted to get out of the sun or rain. The new stadium will have a field level of very expensive seats, exclusive "club" and luxury box levels protected from the elements, and then the "affordable" seating in the unprotected highest deck, which is also set further back from the field to avoid obstructing views for the pricier seats.

For the average fan, in terms of VIEWING the actual games from an affordable seat, the Dome was worse than the Met, and the new park promises to be worse than even the Dome. It's not all ballpark design -- it just costs more to do a lot of things these days, and there is definately more demand -- but these economic factors are the driving force behind these new ballpark designs, and not to the benefit of the average fan.

Posted by: spycake at April 13, 2006 1:00 PM

Well if the argument is affordability of course the dome is worse than the met and the new place will be worse than the dome. Everything is higher priced now than it was in 1978. Julian needs to go away with Met Stadium. He thinks the minor league experience of the Saints is a wonderful thing. As a baseball fan, I think it sucks. It has nothing to do with baseball, instead, it's all about drinking beer in a parking lot and gimmicks throughout ROTTEN baseball being played on the field.

Minnesotans are simpletons, We don't need flashy and we'll pay the money if the product is worth watching. Make the product worth watching. Julian was parked out at the Met during some of the worst Twins teams of all-time. He and Veeck love their cheap gimmicks.

Posted by: kevin in az at April 13, 2006 11:27 PM

Relax, Kevin. It's not a strict "affordability" argument in a cost sense, as I understand inflation and greater demand etc. But there is definately a more complex cost/value issue at play here for major league sports, especially in stadium construction, which presents a conflict given the predominantly public financing of the stadium. As more public money goes into these structures, the cost of attending the games is skyrocketing, and even the "affordable" seats are often worse than in the old ballparks. You may argue that this is somehow inevitable, but how does it serve the general public?

I'm not Julian, and I don't have any Met Stadium or minor-league fetishes, but I am fast being priced out of attending a major league baseball game. The Dome and its "cheap seats" are pretty much my last decent option for all pro sports, and if this new stadium goes through, at least 6000 of these seats will effectively be eliminated (more for the playoffs), the remaining "cheap" seats will likely be placed even further from the field, and I imagine the costs will be scaled up aaccording to recent new ballpark trends. I've been a die-hard Twins fan since childhood, and routinely made 300-mile round trips to see games... and now I'm dreading the possibility of a new Twins park? What's wrong with this picture?

If Minnesotans are indeed "simpletons" and "we don't need flashy," why should we pay for a new ballpark offering all sorts of "fan amenities" and theme restaurants, which will all be priced too high anyway? If you want to pick on Julian and his hang-ups, fine, but this is a very real concern for some of us Twins fans still living in Minnesota, not in Arizona.

Posted by: spycake at April 14, 2006 9:34 AM

(Er, sorry for the double post. You accept comments without a name or email?)

Posted by: spycake at April 14, 2006 9:36 AM

Yes, I accept anonymous comments. Crazy, heh? And some people definitely take advantage of it.

And spycake, while I agree with your synopsis that major league sports are getting too expensive for me to take my family, are any of us really sure what the plan is for the new Twins ballpark? Can we withold judgement until there is reason to be angry? As you say, the cheap seats in the Metrodome are pretty decent. I don't see why this trend won't continue in the new ballpark. None of us know for sure.

Finally, again, I trust the Twins and Hennepin County to know how to build a good ballpark. Julian is welcome to his opinion, but I don't know why I should trust him over the Twins. I have no doubt the new ballpark will be a great place to watch baseball.

Posted by: Shane at April 14, 2006 9:46 AM

Well, we know that they're eliminating 6,000 seats in the new park, most of which will be the outfield upper deck, the current $6 ticket at the Dome. So, the cheapest widely-available ticket in the new park will be the equivalent of the Dome infield upper deck, which is currently $17.

We also know that they're planning to pack in the most lower level seats around the infield in all of MLB -- which is cool, but I already can't afford those, and more lower level seats + no overhang is going to push the start of the upper deck further back. Add that to the multiple club seat / luxury box levels before the upper deck even begins, and it's highly likely the upper deck is going to be pushed further from the field. (And this isn't pure speculation or premature judgement -- you can check out the HOK architectural plans at http://www.mntwinsville.com/topics/plan/index.shtml -- they're low-quality PDF scans, though, so it's hard to read exact measurements, but the principles above are all represented).

Frankly, I don't trust the Twins and Hennepin County to build a good ballpark. I trust the Twins to build a ballpark to maximize their revenues, and I trust Hennepin County to want to keep the Twins as a business and community asset. Unfortunately, neither of those things provides adequate assurance that I will have a great place to watch baseball anymore once the park is built.

Posted by: spycake at April 14, 2006 1:23 PM

Well, there it is: a matter of trust. I can certainly understand why you are so jaded, spycake, and I respect your opinion. You may be right, but for now I can't see how a new ballpark will be even remotely as bad or worse than the Metrodome. I would be stunned if their were no more $6 tickets, especially on weekday games, and I am excited that they won't be in the outfield upper deck. But that is just a guess and, again, something I trust the Twins to provide.

But to be frank, nothing will happen this year anyway. You and I both know it. If the proposal passes through the House Taxes committee unscathed I will be very surprised. So get comfy in your Metrodome $6 seats. They'll be around for a few years more. Lucky you.

Posted by: Shane at April 14, 2006 2:23 PM

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