Should we really cheer public-private stadium?

Dennis DalmanEditorial, Sartell – St. Stephen, St. JosephLeave a Comment

After 10 years of cajoling and threats, the Minnesota Vikings finally got its way. The team will get a stadium at a cost of $1 billion, with slightly over half of that cost coming from various forms of public funds.

Purple Pride exploded when the stadium deal finally passed the legislature.

Even many who were opposed to the public-private deal from the beginning are actually relieved the deal was done because they were sick-and-tired of hearing about it and disgusted with how much time legislators spent haggling over it.

Since 2000, there have been close to 30 major-league stadiums built nationwide for a combined cost of $9 billion – $5 billion of that amount from public sources.

Those cities and states were more or less bamboozled into stadium deals based on dubious assumptions, according to an excellent book entitled “Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle Over Building Sports Stadiums.” Written by Kevin J. Delaney and Rick Eckstein, the book is a scholarly analysis of stadium deals. The authors maintain the oft-vaunted positive economic impacts of new stadiums are grossly exaggerated, at best. The real benefits, they claim, go not to the public at large but to stadium owners, players and corporations or financial institutions with vested interests. Eskstein and Delaney argue such stadium-crazed policies can actually exacerbate social ills such as poverty, unemployment and homelessness because of a lopsided, unwise allocation of resources.

The book also brilliantly dissects the socio-economic forces that coalesce when it comes to stadium-building – forces that band together to channel scarce public resources into an iffy assumption – that a stadium will benefit one and all.

That process of coalition-building for a sports stadium is a variation of “you scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours.” It also involves a rather cynical effort to whip up “team-spirit pride” to convince the public to go along with stadium deals.

Even people who are not football fans would likely agree a new stadium is a good amenity for Minnesota, but at what price? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all these power groups would coalesce to come up with ways to strengthen education, infrastructure and health care?

Purple Pride unwittingly fuels Green Greed. Time will tell just how much money will be generated because of the presence of this new stadium and how much of those profits will go to the owners and the players – money that should, by rights, be repaid to Minnesota.

Throughout the world, sports worship has become a kind of mania – even to the point of vicious behavior and lethal violence (especially among soccer-club thugs in Europe).

Sports and good sportsmanship are good, of course – integral components of the human condition, the human spirit. But sports mania is another thing altogether, especially when it leads to dubious stadium deals.

Author: Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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