I am BARRY HESS > Blog

A Twins Stadium Is Inevitable, Right?

We finally have what might be considered a workable deal for a Twins stadium. The club (Pohlad) has publicly stated the amount of money it will put into the place. The site has been chosen. A seemingly fair tax concept has been proposed. All that remains to be seen is whether or not the place will have heated seats. Am I right or am I right?

Let’s think about this tax idea a little more. Some would ask why taxes ever enter into the equation. Well, does it not seem at least reasonable that the citizens of Minneapolis would be interested in paying .15% (edit) towards sales tax in order to keep that team in their fair city rather than across the river or across the country? The sales tax will be paid often by many coming from outlying areas, and the more people that come into the city to spend money, the quicker the tax will be off the books. Of course, the other option is to give St. Paul a chance and lose the opportunity cost of a vast amount of cash flow piling in to the city during a baseball season that would likely generate 3 million visitors to the new stadium. Let’s be serious, a large hunk of that sales tax will be paid by the consumers of the entertainment options offered by Minneapolis. It seems the only gripe would be from entertainment facilities that don’t receive consideration from the government.

Unfortunately we then run into the road block that is our inefficient legislature. As Greet Machine has barked thousands of times, the Minnesota body is not able to pull the trigger on even the easiest of decisions. It seems most legislators have made up their mind on this already. The Twins stadium issue has been around for a decade. Why do they need days and weeks of debate and back-and-forth? Why do they need to wait for other work to be completed? No one’s mind is going to change. Take a day, put it on the floor, vote, and be done with it. There’s an action I could applaud.

A Twins stadium is a very difficult thing for me. I really enjoy being able to go to fifteen games a year for basically nothing with Upper GA season tickets. I have to ask, will I enjoy the five games a year at a top notch stadium as much as the similarly price fifteen games a year at the dome? I’m not so sure I will be that happy going to fewer games or spending a lot more money to go to the same amount of games. The most important part, speaking as a Twins fan, is to keep the team in Minnesota. That goal overrides any of my other qualms. New stadium = Twins continuing to exist.

This isn’t to say that I’m for any ol’ option that gets a stadium done. No new taxes sounds as good to me as it does to the next guy. Yet cities will build arenas in order to attract musical acts, and their accompanying fan base, to the region. They don’t do this in order to simply provide nice things for their residents. They don’t build parks just because they look nice. They do this to bring in revenue, attract new residents, and generally keep the economy of the region going. Rather than shouting “No new taxes!” Minneapolis, the legislature and the governor need to look at the offer on the table, do the math, and determine if it is going to provide positive cash flow.

As for a roof, I say run the same numbers. If putting a roof on the stadium is expected to generate sufficiently more attendees to games to cover the $100 million cost, then put it on. If not, don’t. Like everything else, the decision should be financially feasible, not just based on what feels right.

It’s hard for me to believe that formulas don’t exist for this kind of city planning activity. Throw all the variables (lost sales due to tax burden, gained sales due to new venue, gained income tax due to resident migration, etc) together and decide if this decision makes economic sense. Forget about all of the slogans and one-line responses. If this tax generates a profit for the city, metro and state, then it will actually help education and health care and all those things we should really be worried about. Is cost-benefit analysis a foreign concept in government? If building a stadium under this plan results in a net gain, I say go for it. The only wildcard (yes, I know, I’m sure there are more) that would remain is determining if there is an undue burden on a certain population within the state.

Do your jobs, run the numbers, tell us what the results are, and make the best decision for this state, the metro and the city of Minneapolis. Isn’t this what we elect and pay you for?