US Bank Stadium should not get more taxpayers’ money

When U.S. Bank Stadium was constructed between 2013 and 2016, it cost Minnesota taxpayers $348 million, and the city of Minneapolis $150 million.

And according to the Star Tribune, Minnesota taxpayers might have to pony up some more, as the stadium will require some expensive maintenance — money that the stadium operators don’t have.

U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Vikings, will require some $280 million in maintenance to remain in top condition over the next decade, including nearly $48 million next year..

“Is there sufficient money to cover these? The answer to that is no,” said Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chair Michael Vekich. “That is the work that we have to do collectively with [stadium operator] ASM, the Minnesota Vikings and … the governor and the Legislature.”

The Vikings and the public make annual contributions to the stadium capital improvement fund, which sits at just over $16 million. The audio-visual room — one of the areas that will need work soon — is alone expected to cost $14 million, the report said.

Why public subsidies for stadiums?

You may be wondering why a private entity like the Vikings, a team owned by a billionaire family, was able to get public funding for its stadium (and could now get even more).

Well, the case for subsidizing stadium construction and maintenance usually goes like this: constructing and maintaining a stadium creates new jobs in an area. Additionally, people who come to watch football games bring in revenue, which contributes to the economy of the city or state where the stadium is located. Stadiums also bring new businesses into an area.

So cities and states have been ponying up money for stadiums to relocate to their respective regions, hoping to make money off of such undertakings.

The research has, however, debunked this assumption. In fact, one study that summarized research from over 130 studies concluded that the research seems to highly suggest that spending money on stadiums usually ends up costing more than it brings for cities and states. Instead, the public is often left with more expenses for maintaining the stadiums.

This is because construction jobs in stadiums are temporary, and most of the jobs that come with maintaining the stadium are either part-time or seasonal. Moreover, stadiums are only open a few times during the year, making their economic contributions negligible compared to those of other businesses that are open throughout the whole year.

Some proponents of stadium subsidies understand this phenomenon, so they instead bring up the fact that building stadiums attract other types of businesses into the area — businesses that wouldn’t be there in the first place. But that is difficult to prove.

When the U.S. Bank Stadium was built, for example, the former mayor of Minneapolis made note of the fact that mandated parking for the stadium encouraged Wells Fargo to relocate 5,000 jobs to Downtown East. These, however, are not new jobs. These were jobs that were already going to be in Minneapolis, they just got relocated.

And in a fifth-anniversary celebration of the U.S. Bank Stadium, Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune noted that, as of 2018,

2.5 million people have visited the building and 90 percent of the $1.1 billion in stadium construction costs went back to Minnesotans. It has helped lead to more than $2 billion in investment to the east side of downtown.

Again, it’s hard to say whether that $2 billion in investments wouldn’t have come to Minneapolis regardless of whether the city financed U.S. Bank Stadium. Moreover, it is quite possible that if taxpayers had instead spent that money themselves, they would have generated bigger investments in the economy compared to what U.S. Bank Stadium was able to generate for the city of Minneapolis.

Stadium subsidies are a bad deal for taxpayers

Subsidies for any type of business are anathema to the free market economy. Businesses are supposed to compete on their own merit and suffer losses, as well as profits, in private without taxpayers footing the bill.

But even if an argument could be made that some subsidies are worth the cost because they bring significant benefits, that argument does not seem to apply to stadiums. Professional stadiums lose taxpayers’ money. Take Chicago, for example, a city that owes hundreds of millions of dollars because it couldn’t make payments on the bonds it took out to finance renovations for the Soldier Field Stadium more than 20 years ago.

There was never a viable case to be made for giving half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money to the U.S. Bank Stadium back in 2013. That hasn’t changed.