The Stadium Debate – Not theirs, mine
In what puts me at odds with a lot of my friends, I can’t be completely annoyed by the fact the state finally approved a new stadium for the Vikings. I’m annoyed, mind you, just not completely annoyed. As with most issues like this, I live in the grey area between “fuck yeah!” and “what the fuck?”
Let’s start with the positives to the new stadium deal and yes, there are positives.
For one, the Vikings increase tax revenue by a lot. I’ve seen a lot of people debating this sort of thing but one thing that is missed by most is the amount of tax revenue generated by the players. Specifically, players from other teams.
See, when a professional athlete plays a game in Minnesota, they have to pay taxes based on the income they earned for that game. So if Peyton Manning plays a game in Minnesota against the Vikings and he is getting paid basically $250,000 a game, he pays taxes to the state of Minnesota based on that $250,000 he earned for playing here. Now most other athletes on a team don’t make that much but when you consider the salary cap for 2012 is $120 + million per team, that is a lot of tax revenue generated over eight home games a year.
The question, of course, is how much tax revenue is generated vs. how much the state is paying and when that revenue balances out. I don’t have those numbers.
The second major factor at work is the notoriety that a metropolitan area with major sports teams has. It cannot be discounted that we are one of relatively few major metro areas that have all four major sports represented (well – if you count the Timberwolves it’s technically 3 1/2).
That helps draw conventions, and other related business into the downtown area and while it doesn’t seem like that benefits everyone in Minnesota, the tax revenue does go to the state as well as the city.
So having the Vikings say in town is good for the general revenue base as well as the general quality of life in the twin cities. People (maybe not you but other people) like to live in a metro area that has a major league football team.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and one of the players will try to run you over!
Now, the other thing I like about the stadium deal is the fact the state actually has rights to earn revenue from the site where the Twins completely fleeced the state in that regard. Concerts and other events booked at the new as yet not named after a corporation stadium will actually generate revenue that goes back to the city and state and not to the Vikings.
So I like that.
What don’t I like? A lot.
For one, Professional Football is the most lucrative racket in the world. Without a stadium deal, the Wilfs could sell the Vikings right now and make millions of dollars. Even with the teams’ 2011 season a complete disaster and (in this scenario) no stadium deal in place.
Football is king of the hill. No other sport is even close. A professional football team makes more in 16 games a year than a baseball team does in 162. The numbers these teams generate for their owners is staggering.
So why the fuck do these billionaires need our help to build a stadium? Are they suddenly not going to be rich if they build it their damn selves? What’s wrong with just asking for some property tax easements and getting on with it?
The answer is simple. They don’t have to. Rich people like their money and they want to keep it. If they don’t have to spend it, they won’t.
They have been pounding at this for year and waiting for just the right moment to bring up the point that the L.A. market is desperate for a team and would love to spring for a new stadium. Given California’s dubious financial state at the moment, I question that the money is really available but still, the team probably would have moved if the stadium deal wasn’t done.
They would have moved because some other metro area that doesn’t have a pro football team and wants one would pay for a new stadium. Football owners make the public pay for stadiums for one reason only – they can. They didn’t get rich by spending more money than they had to.
The Wilfs will be minting their own money with this new stadium. When the find a corporation that desperately wants their name plastered across the front of the building, they will probably make at least 50 Million. Fans will probably pay at least 50% more for a seat at a game and I’ll bet the hot dogs will be more expensive too.
If the Wilfs had put up all the money themselves, thy might not have been able to afford a new Rolls Royce until 2018. Instead, they can buy one now.
They’ll only pay half price, though, because they’ll tell Rolls Royce that unless it coughs up half the price, they will buy a different luxury automobile.
So I could give a fuck about the hardships the Wilfs will face as a result of ponying up an additional $50 million beyond the amount they had originally stated was the most they could possibly pledge. It sounds like a lot of money to you and me but in the world of the NFL, that amount of money is nothing.
As we all get annoyed at the legislature for writing a check to the Wilfs on the backs of gambling addicts, let’s remember this other point. The Wilfs have been asking for this money for ten years. If they’d gotten it ten years ago, the state would have spent a lot less than they are spending now.
Problem is, the stadium is a political hot potato and nobody was going to pass it until they were basically forced to. In the meantime, reasonable proposals like a surcharge on Viking Ticket fees and merchandise sales to cover the state’s portion of the stadium went by the wayside because why would you want the people who most directly benefit from a new stadium to shoulder the cost of its production?
The result? We are expanding gambling in the state, which means the money is being raised primarily by lower-income people who believe that gambling will make them richer instead of poorer.
So the grey area for me is this: I absolutely agree that keeping the Vikings around is better than watching them leave.
I’m still bothered by a system that allows billionaires to get the state to pay for their stadiums when they are the owners of one of the best investments in the world.
Then again, one of the reasons it is the best investment in the world is because you can get the public to pay for stuff you should be buying yourself.