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Minnesota Taxpayers Could Be Pillaged for $280 Million in Vikings' Stadium Upgrades


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Taxpayers fronted nearly $500 million for a new professional football stadium in Minneapolis that opened just seven years ago. Now, they could be on the hook for as much as $280 million more in ongoing maintenance costs over the next decade.

Despite being no older than a second-grader, U.S. Bank Stadium is reportedly in need of several major upgrades and there is not enough money set aside in the stadium's reserve fund to cover those costs, according to a report from the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune. There's about $16 million set aside now, but maintenance and upgrade costs will hit $48 million next year, according to the new assessment. The chairman of the organization that oversees the stadium isn't shy about the fact that taxpayers will be expected to pick up some of the tab.

"Is there sufficient money to cover these? The answer to that is no," Michael Vekich, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, told the Star Tribune. "That is the work that we have to do collectively with [stadium operator] ASM, the Minnesota Vikings and…the governor and the Legislature."

That's on top of the $15.7 million in new taxpayer funding that was included in last year's state budget to upgrade the security perimeter around the stadium and another $48 million that Vekich told the Star Tribune will be necessary to finish the perimeter.

All in all, the story of U.S. Bank Stadium is a useful warning about how the price tag for publicly funded stadiums can continue to balloon even after construction is over. It should also blow a massive hole in the argument most commonly made by advocates for public stadium subsidies: that stadium projects pay for themselves in the long term by generating economic growth. Study after study has disproven that argument, but here's a succinct illustration of the problem. If the stadium was paying for itself, why would taxpayers have to pick up the tab for routine maintenance?

There's also a major conflict of interest here, as stadium subsidy skeptic Neil deMause pointed out on his Field of Schemes blog. The laundry list of necessary (and expensive) upgrades to U.S. Bank Stadium was compiled by Populous, a stadium design and construction firm that is likely to bid on much of the future work. It's like a car salesman telling you that you should buy a new car, and the best news is that you can get someone else to pay for it!

These sorts of ongoing obligations for stadium maintenance are the latest angle in the stadium subsidy scheme. It's not just Minneapolis. Cincinnati is trying to figure out how to pay for $500 million in upgrades to its 23-year-old football stadium. Maryland created a $1.2 billion slush fund for stadium upgrade costs last year, with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and MLB's Baltimore Orioles as the primary beneficiaries.

Another reason why these public projects so rarely "pay for themselves" is that cities often grant huge property tax breaks to the stadiums. In New York City, for example, a recent report from the city's Independent Budget Office found that the four major stadiums in the Big Apple—Barclays Center, Citi Field, Madison Square Garden, and Yankee Stadium—are exempt from roughly $377 million in annual property taxes.

While Madison Square Garden's situation is weird and unique, the other three stadiums are exempt because they "were all built on publicly owned land that is exempt from property taxes," according to the IBO report. But there's nothing actually "public" about a stadium—they're not parks that anyone can visit whenever they'd like or use for a variety of purposes—and cities should stop engaging in the fiction that they are.

Most importantly, the IBO report found that "there is little evidence that these types of subsidies generate sufficient economic activity to lead to a net fiscal benefit to the local area."

To sum up: Taxpayers are forced to cover stadium construction costs with the promise of economic growth that doesn't materialize, then sometimes get hit up for ongoing maintenance costs that can't be covered by the economic growth that didn't materialize, and all this happens while the supposedly public stadiums are not generating property tax revenue to help offset their public costs. It's a bad deal for just about everyone—except for the stadium design firms that get to decide how much extra cash taxpayers will have to pony up to maintain a facility that's still basically brand new.


Yep.  Crony capitalism and fleecing the taxpayers at it's finest.  Despicable.


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More disgraceful stadium shenanigans, this time by the owner of the Bills:

(warning, foul language)



Terry Pegula is worth $6.7 billion.

That’s the first thing everyone should know whenever any discussion of the Buffalo Bills getting a new stadium comes up. Sure, what you’re worth doesn’t mean you have a Scrooge McDuck vault that you can swim in (though if you had that much money, why wouldn’t you?). But it does mean that you have the ability to pay for what you want, no matter the cost. So yes, Terry and his allegedly bullying shithead wife Kim can easily pay for a new Bills stadium all themselves, and then reap the profits guilt-free.

Ha, as if ghouls like this could ever feel guilt. They never think twice about taking hundreds of millions of dollars that could have improved the lives of thousands, if not millions, in public money and watch how it sets them up to keep all the goodies. The public never sees it. Which is what’s setting up in Buffalo and New York state.

Erie County, the state, and the Bills have an agreement on the proposal for their new stadium that’s going to cost $1.5 billion (for now). The Erie County lawmakers now have a month to approve it. It would take $800 million (for now) out of local and state coiffeurs to pay for it. Lord knows what Western New York could do with that amount of money, or how residents in other parts of what is a gargantuan state feel about coughing up for a team that has nothing to do with them, but no one authoring this gives a shit.

The deal is more crooked than a dog’s hind leg. The husband of New York Governor Kathy Hochul, William, just happens to be the vice president of the company that provides the concessions at the Bills’ current stadium, and would be likely to get the concessions deal at the new one, which will be even more lucrative. Needless to say, neither of the Hochuls can be considered an impartial arbiter of any of this.

Hochul’s weak-ass attempt to justify the expenditure that will eventually line her own pockets is, “...how important it is for the identity of Western New York.” The Pegulas would have no problem making the Bills the identity of whatever area would give them more money than Buffalo and New York will. Certainly the NFL as a whole doesn’t care about a team’s and city’s identity together as far as how much they can cash it out. This is just playing on fans’ emotions to justify a deal that will do them no good. It does not make fans part of the deal, or part of the ownership. It’s manipulation.

These stadium deals don’t work out for the areas they take place in, especially an outdoor stadium outside of Buffalo. How many events can you hold there per year? 20? 30?

Another question is, where exactly are the Pegulas gonna go? What major metropolitan area is screaming out for not just an NFL team, but the pleasure of paying for a new stadium still very much in the aftermath of a pandemic and all the economic horrors that brought on? Austin? Please. London? Munich? A move to Europe isn’t as simple as playing two American cities off each other. There are way more logistics involved, and even the NFLPA that’s always so eager to have its belly tickled by the NFL owners might actually get out of their chair to fight that one. St. Louis isn’t in a rush to deal with another NFL owner’s bullshit, and San Diego might not be either.

If a fuckwit like Stan Kroenke can manage to build a $5 billion stadium with only private money, why can’t the Pegulas? New York should make them ask themselves that question.

Certainly thousands of Western New Yorkers would have to stomach the pain of losing a team. But how many people does that really affect? NFL Sunday Ticket allows fans to watch every game. How many go to every game? 40,000? 50,000? Is that enough people to rob the state and county blind for decades?

One day someone’s going to call the bluff of assholes like the Pegulas. Erie County can start that conga line this month.


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