The Vikings got somewhat the same sensation Monday as, for the first time since the Minnesota State Legislature opened for business in its 2009 session, the question of discussing a Vikings stadium was brought up.
Briefly. Momentarily. Quietly.
Just as quickly, the idea was all but dismissed. At a committee meeting of the House Local Government Division, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission attempted to get a sympathetic ear toward stressing the positives of building a new stadium. Using the same logic that has propelled the federal economic stimulus program, which has the basic premise that one needs to spend money to make money and help pull the country out of the current economic recession, the contention was made that state funding of a multi-purpose stadium would have multiple benefits.
The MSFC told committee members that a new stadium would create 8,000 construction jobs (and a total of 13,400 during construction) and bring in $32 million a year in tax revenues. Over half the cost of constructing the new stadium, about $577 million, would go to wages and salaries, according to the report.
"When we're at an average of 25 percent unemployment, just in our organization of 60,000, that's a lot of families that don't have a primary income," said Dick Anfang, president of the Minnesota Building and Trades Council.
The total economic output during construction is believed to be $1.35 billion when everything is cycled through the state's economy, the report said.
"The CSL (Conventions, Sports and Leisure) report that was unveiled today reinforces the notion that this proposed stadium project will provide jobs and boost economic activity at a time when both are needed," said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs/stadium development. "With the Twins and Gophers stadiums set to open in the next year, a need exists for this project and the 5,300 construction workers who will be available after those other stadiums are completed."
However, with every state, county and city in the country smiling with a hand out to get a piece of the federal stimulus package, apparently that largesse stops with President Obama's pen. The same logic that is being used to push a national recovery apparently doesn't apply at the state level.
A study done by the MSFC states that, after a stadium is built, events conducted in the new stadium – from Vikings games to concerts to community events to a college baseball system dependent on a closed-roof facility in February, March and potentially April – would create 3,400 full-time and part-time jobs. All of those paychecks would not only pump money into the local economy, but be subject to state income tax.
The idea, however, was quickly shot down. State Representative Jeremy Kalin (DFL-Lindstrom) was quoted extensively following the hearing, saying among other things that "We're living in a world where business as usual doesn't cut it anymore. The world has drastically changed."
That seems like something of an ironic statement from a House member who, on his own website jeremykalin.com, stated as part his campaign mission statement, "We need a leader who knows how to work with people so we can YES (his emphasis) to good ideas, regardless of who them brings them forward."
That feeling would seem to have waned somewhat since actually winning his election and taking office. The stadium initiative needs someone at the state level to champion the cause. Kalin, who ironically works as a designer for Natural Space Domes, claims on his website that "my job is to chase down problems, sit down with all sides to find the cause and help craft the most efficient solution that can improve our products and move our company forward." That sentiment apparently hasn't translated to his new job.
Kalin imposed flowery language in reference the North Branch school district's lack of funding by saying cuts have gone from "the bone" to "the marrow" and claiming that "we could be losing Friday Night Lights and homecoming weekends." While the hyperbole of such statements were intended to grab the attention of legislative reporters – it worked – it doesn't grasp the full picture of what the stadium proposal will (or won't) do for the state.
Roy Terwilliger, a former legislator and current chairman of the MSFC, said he wasn't coming to the Legislature with a bill nor was he speaking on behalf of the Vikings. He was attempting to impress upon committee members that the current economic recession isn't going to be permanent. The study he presented claims that the ripple effect of the jobs created and maintained through the process would more than pay for the stadium itself. Committee members did not seem swayed.
Whether any more attempts will be made to start a stadium dialogue during the current session is unknown, but, if Monday's foray into the realm of stadium conversation is any indication, they may well be simply throwing up a clay pigeon into a room filled with shotguns.