On Sunday, Latitude News went to Minnehaha Falls Park in Minneapolis to find out which local stories people there believe have global implications. Niki Sauer, who is a Minnesota Vikings football fan, wondered whether it was appropriate to spend millions of dollars on a new NFL stadium for the Vikings — a “first-world” concern, as she puts it — against the backdrop of serious issues like the ongoing war in Afghanistan or heightened tensions in the Middle East.
Niki’s ambivalence about building the stadium is thought-provoking. Are Minnesotans worried inappropriately about such an insignificant thing as a sport? And, who should pay for this monster-dome?? Usually, it ends up being the government (meaning taxpayers) that foots most of the bill, whether in the U.S., China or Britain.
The thinking of decision-makers seems to be a global mindset: If we build it, they will come. The British government spent billions of dollars on the infrastructure for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which will be held in London in July and August. Euro 2012, a major soccer competition, will be jointly held in Poland and Ukraine in June, and millions more are being spent in both countries to prepare for the event in a continent obsessed with soccer.
The host countries for these international sports events also spend millions just promoting themselves, thinking the international attention will be good for their countries’ “branding” and economy. South Korea, for one, tried three times in 12 years to host the Winter Olympics. It finally last year won the bid for the games in 2018. A whole plane full of government officials, sports celebrities and corporate executives jetted off last summer from Seoul to South Africa to pitch their plan.
But what happens when it’s just Minneapolis, a small-ish city with lots of snow and few other big cities nearby?Although Niki believes Minneapolis should build a new stadium, she has her reservations. “I think we’re spoiled in how we spend money.” She adds, “people in Afghanistan or Israel probably aren’t worried about building a huge stadium for a stupid sport.”
In Minneapolis, the plan calls for the city to contribute more than $340 million to build the stadium (the Vikings would just about match that amount), according to the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Tribune. The proposal, city officials say, would not require new taxes, but would come from portions of its existing taxes, including sales, restaurant, liquor and lodging taxes. The proposal in Minneapolis has proven divisive, and a legislative committee this week delayed action on the plan.
The famed New York Yankees just got a brand-new baseball stadium and the New York Mets have a new one too, Citi Field. Stadiums for thousands of European soccer fans seem to pop up regularly. And who isn’t familiar with the world-renowned Bird’s Nest in Beijing, built for the 2008 Summer Olympics at a cost of about $400 million. (The designer of the stadium, artist Ai Weiwei, incidentally, was placed under house arrest by the Communist Party in China last year over supposed tax issues.)
Neil Demause recently wrote an article in The Nation, “Why Do Mayors Love Sports Stadiums?” In the piece, he pointed out that “owners of the ‘big four’ sports leagues in the U.S. — the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — have reaped nearly $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies for their new homes since 1990.”
Money should and must be spent for the common good, including maybe even for fun things. But is football — even for the mighty, venerable Vikings — worth the expense?
Kelsey Dilts McGregor contributed to this story
Should the Minnesota Vikings, or any team, get millions for a new stadium?Discuss this