The Minnesota Vikings professional football team has been requesting a new stadium to replace the ailing Metrodome for most of the year. While there have been recent threats to move the team to a new city owner Zygi Wilf seems disinclined to actually move forward on such a scheme. Although the Minnesota Vikings have been an institution in this city for many decades a new billion-dollar stadium is a hard sell in the current economic environment.
This makes Governor Dayton’s continually supporting statements all the more confusing. Considering that Gov. Dayton previously presided over a contentious budget debate in the state legislature that ultimately involved borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars instead of raising taxes it is odd that he would continue to support a stadium plan. The Star Tribune reports today that Gov. Dayton has clarified his position in response to a referendum plan in the works for Ramsey County:
“I don’t have a problem with [a referendum], but I’m not advocating it,” Dayton said. “I want to get this stadium project done.”
The governor’s comments clarified remarks from Monday at the State Fair where he said he would support a referendum. Dayton said those comments were twisted.
“I’m not supporting it, per se. I’m not opposed to it. If they pass legislation and the Legislature goes along with it, I’ll support it,” he said of the referendum.
Keep in mind that this year saw the state legislature unable to pass a budget, forcing the state to shut down. The same legislature did manage to pass a referendum on the ability for two same-sex citizens to get married. Now the same legislative body may be deliberating on whether or not to spend a billion dollars on a stadium for a team populated by millionaires. While Dayton may seem to prefer having Ramsey County voters deciding this on their own his statements indicate that he would sign a stadium bill if it made it to his desk. The governor was previously unwilling to raise taxes on the very richest in society but has no problem with a massive expenditure of money on a professional football stadium.
The twisting of values represented in this debate is staggering. The Minnesota legislature has no problem shutting down and putting people out of work but it may yet solve the non-pressing problem of what to do about a stadium that is roughly thirty years old. In fact, there is a perfectly acceptable stadium that the Vikings could use that is almost brand new. TCF Bank stadium in use by the University of Minnesota seats around fifty thousand people. The Vikings even used the field when the Metrodome roof collapsed last year. Yet the team is clamoring for a brand new stadium despite the massive costs.
The Star Tribune story mentions that Ramsey County voters have been dismissive of referendums like this, declining the Twins a stadium over ten years ago. That stadium would eventually be built as Target Field, but in Minneapolis. Perhaps it is the specter of defeat that is causing the Vikings management to pursue the legislative strategy. The fact of the matter is that a stadium is not in the best interests of the people of Minnesota right now. Minnesota citizens currently have a government that barely functions even to provide economic well being. Why is the idea of a massive new and tax-payer subsidized professional stadium even being considered in light of this situation? It should not be and the Vikings will have to deal with it.