Steve Keefe, Minnesota senator and stadium proponent, discusses stadium bill in legislature, which he authored. Program also includes comments from Jim Ford, member of Fight to Advance the Nation’s Sports. Ford shares view of further commitment from sports team owners, and private funding vs. public funding of stadiums.
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(00:00:00) The Metropolitan sports facilities commission and a point of body created by the Minnesota Legislature is investigating whether or not Minnesota needs a new or remodeled stadium and the commission will make a decision by December 1 the proposals sound simple. No new stadium or a new stadium in either Minneapolis or Bloomington, but they're very complicated underneath that surface about two weeks ago on. Midday. We talked with a man by the name of Jim Ford. Mr. Ford belongs to a group called fans or the fight to advance. The nation's (00:00:30) Sports professional sports has been considered for many many years as a Private Industry as opposed to a public industry and if professional sports are going to be allowed to continue to make very large profits in some in some cases and at the same time using public facilities stadiums and Arenas that have been constructed with taxpayers funds are the operations of which in probably every city in the country, perhaps The Twin Cities here where daily operations of a stadium or Arena that is publicly owned cannot be or the stadium can't be operated in the black. Then you have the question of if the taxpayers if the community citizens are helping subsidize the operations of a professional football team does not that team have a commitment to the community that goes beyond the simple basics of a profit and loss statement (00:01:24) that question of commitment by professional teams is just one of many that must be considered when talking about a possible new stadium in the Twin Cities and today on midday will talk with a stadium proponent state senators Stephen Keefe, but to set the stage before our conversation with mr. Keefe, we return to Jim Ford for a moment Ford is convinced that the construction of a new stadium has created that new stadiums around the country has created higher taxes for some taxpayers, but for it is also convinced. There's a way to avoid that problem. (00:02:01) Almost without exception the construction of new stadiums and particularly Dome stadiums in the last ten years have proved to be a burden on the taxpayers. This can be broken down in one of two ways. Those stadiums such as the Pontiac Silverdome or the Kingdome in Seattle while they perhaps did not overrun in terms of construction costs. Both of these stadiums are now operating at a deficit. For example, the Superdome loses 56,000 dollars a day simply on operating costs and an integral part of those operating costs is the added amount of heat and electricity that must be used to maintain the facility. The Superdome has already lost 12 million dollars on operations alone. And that is a burden that has been picked up by the taxpayers all the taxpayers in Louisiana construction costs. Their incidentally were expected to be 35 million dollars. The actual construction cost has now reached 25 million (00:03:01) dollars. Let me ask you this Jim. What do you think is the key to success in your experience in building a new sports facility in an (00:03:09) area? Well, there are there are there are actually two solutions that have Arisen to date number one is that construction that has been done by on a private basis rather than on a public basis. There have been fewer costs overruns that can the stadiums have been able to be built for far less money and that led that leads to the question of of course. Why is it a lot easier and far less costly for a private individual or organization to build a stadium then say city state or in the case of Washington DC the federal government a second option that has proved out to work quite well. He's constructing a new stadium using both public and private funds and incidentally that is what the save the Met committee here in Minneapolis proposes a precedent for constructing new facilities. Saudis with both public and private funds is exist here in the Midwest in Kansas city where the Royals and the Chiefs combined to give the city or a grant the city 15 million dollars to eight in the Reconstruction of Arrowhead Stadium in the construction of the Royals baseball stadium that facility has worked out to be a fairly well managed and well operating (00:04:24) facility Jim Ford of fans. We spoke with to him about two weeks ago on midday and is mr. Ford points out. He is skeptical of building new sports stadium and many communities around the country because of the problem of cost overruns He suggests some public and private agencies cooperating on the construction of a stadium and joining us today is a stadium proponent state senator, Steve Keefe who has agreed to talk with us about some of the economic pluses of Stadium Construction in the Twin Cities area. Thanks for doing that and welcome to midday. Mr. Keefe. I wanted to begin by asking you about Jim Ford's point the use of public and private funds. What's your anchor reaction to that proposal? Well, that's a great idea. In fact, that's exactly what they propose to do in Minneapolis the the part of the condition for building a stadium in Minneapolis that's provided in the legislation that we pass is that the is that the business community in Minneapolis has to provide the land for the stadium which which comes to about 10 million dollars. So it's I think I don't know if mr. Ford works for the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce or what but he's proposing the Minneapolis solution. Alright also joining us today is MP Arsdale Connolly who from time to time has covered the stadium issue Senator kefauver. What about some of the problems that people have mentioned about a stadium? Well, especially in Downtown Minneapolis, but of course some of the problems would be present in Bloomington to presumably if a new facility were built we can cover one of the problems mentioned frequently and that's the question of air pollution. How do you respond to people who say that the air pollution created by Cars in the traffic jams going to professional athletic activity at a new stadium would be unbelievable. I think it's the pollution control agency who says carbon monoxide levels would be above Federal limits. Well, that's a major problem that we have to deal with the Minneapolis although or in any big city where there's a large concentration of traffic. I think the ultimate solution to that sort of thing is to get much more into into public transportations. And that's one of the appeals of the of the downtown stadium is that it's a it's a good site for public transportation. But the fact is that Downtown Minneapolis deals with that kind of traffic on a daily basis for the stores and businesses that are down there. I think the the times when you'd have when you'd have the biggest problem are when you have afternoon baseball games on a weekday when there's people downtown for both business and and pleasure reasons, but those those games don't get the kind of attendance that you get on on Sundays and Saturdays and on those days when there aren't ordinarily other kinds of Traffic downtown I don't think you'd even have a serious problem as you do on a normal weekday. Now that solution of public transportation for getting people to and from games is one that has been mentioned frequently. And I know that the people who want the new facility to be built in Bloomington say that the Metropolitan Transit Commission will not be able to buy the number of buses needed to answer the question of how to publicly transport all of the sports fans to and from the stadium. Is that a problem in your mind? Well, I don't know that it's a more complex problem for Bloomington, of course because Bloomington isn't right on the on the transit all the transit routes the way downtown Minneapolis his for Downtown Minneapolis unless unless the buses have to run exactly at rush hour one of the big problems that the Transit Commission has right now is is unused bus capacity and in in non rush hours the the tremendous success of the senior citizen bus fares during off rush hours is is a result of The realization that the that those buses are out there driving around empty and they might as well be used for for something and as a matter of fact, I think the increased Revenue without an increase in cost is would be a substantial substantial help to the MTC and would give the help them to have more funds to use for expansion of their (00:08:14) programs. Senator Keith. I'm wondering well if the economic what do you see I suppose is the economic benefit of a stadium in Downtown Minneapolis. There are those who say that there really isn't much of an economic benefit to be gained except maybe for people who run parking concessions in there. (00:08:33) Well, I don't know about that. I died when I was a student in high school and in my first year of college, I worked as an usher at Metropolitan stadium and it was great source of Revenue is working outdoors in the Sun and seeing the games and making money at the same time and helped me a lot to get my education. I have a lot of young people who don't have jobs in my district and the kinds of jobs that is that a stadium provides peanut vendors and Usher's and Our commercials and so on are are absolutely ideal for young people. So it has particular appeal to me as a state legislator and and representative of my own constituency. But I think that the economic impact of a stadium is is more complex than that. There's the immediate impact of the people that are that are attracted into the city or to Bloomington or wherever for for a weekend. They stay in hotels eat in restaurants. And so on. I think that Minneapolis businessman and Bloomington business men for that matter are very hard-headed conservative people and they would not be sticking their necks out to the kind of financial commitment that they are if they weren't convinced that they're going to make money on it and I you know, I trust that judgment. I think they've done a they've done a very good job in the past you look at people like the Dayton's they've seemed to know how to sell things before and I think they probably no no, but there's a more important economic impact I think and that has to do with this whole debate that's going on about business climate, you know, Right. Now some people are saying that many Minnesota has a has a bad business climate that our costs are higher taxes are high for business and yet a lot of us are seeing if our climate is so bad. Why do we have such a strong economy with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and and plenty of jobs and plenty of expansion and part of the reason is that we in Minnesota deliver a superior quality of life there a lot of places in this country that you'd like to visit but they're not many places you'd like to move to more than more than the Twin Cities and that has to do with a lot of factors and not just professional sports teams. It has to do with education with parks with the with the Nearness of lakes with with the low crime rate or the whole series of factors that are that are very important. But I think that professional sports are an important part of that quality lifelong with the orchestra and the Guthrie and other kinds of entertainment. Let's excuse me Senator to keep let's talk for a moment about something you mentioned a bit ago on that was commitment of teams to stay. I'm wondering baseball soccer and football are all reasonably popular. Her now among Minnesota sports fans baseball perhaps less so the last couple of days than some of the other events, but (00:11:03) I'm wondering what sort of commitment to professional sports teams need (00:11:07) to make for the (00:11:08) proposed new (00:11:10) Twin Cities Sports facility to be successful. Do you think do they need to make a commitment of any kind? Oh, yeah, the Lost prohibits the stadium commission from building a stadium unless they have sine 30 year contracts with the with the teams and also commitments from the League's to keep the franchise hero Washington DC had a contract with Calvin Griffith, which he was able to get out with our legislation is drafted. So so that even if by some legerdemain the team was able to escape the contract the league would still be bound to keep a franchise in the in the Twin Cities. Do you think that would stand up in court if somebody chose to test it like the league for example, I think would stand up and Congress the way the way the Seattle situation has. All right. Now, do you also talk to people Senator kefauver are dismayed about what is essentially an entertainment activity professional Athletics being reduced to such a dollars and cents formula. We've talked about numbers of people who would attend a game and then would perhaps afterwards shop at Bloomington or downtown stores and do this in that if the restaurants does that somehow do you find people who believe that detract from the overall enjoyment of the athletic event? I don't think that's too much of a problem. We should be in the economic development subcommittee when we talk about tourism in northern Minnesota, and we do the same kind of thing to fishing and water skiing. It's it's something you have to do in a modern (00:12:33) economy Senator cave when we talk about the the economic picture for a stadium. I noticed that the bill that finally came out of the legislature which you were the principal author of The and the Senate set certain amounts that that the state would pay for certain kinds of certain kinds of stadiums now look, At the cost estimates that came before The Stadium commission last week. We still find that the least expensive alternative would be to remodel and expand the present stadium in Bloomington and the save the met people would add to that by saying it's a fine baseball park. We should keep it. Anyway again, it's the least expensive why not go ahead and do that rather than spend more money on another alternative just because it happens to be a little closer to the estimate that came out of the legislature. I guess what I'm really asking is why why the particular estimates for particular kinds of structures? (00:13:36) Well, well, there are two issues there their course. The first is that it's is that it's cheaper to remodel it's it's usually cheaper to fix an old car to but sooner or later it's it's cheaper this time and it's cheaper next month and cheaper the month after that. But an obsolete car needs to be gotten rid of in a new one has to be has to be but I think that's the situation we've arrived out with our Stadium as far as where the dollar figures in the in the legislation. Come from that was a fairly complicated political job passing that bill because of the of the conflicting interests of the people who supported the Bloomington sites and the Coon Rapids sites and st. Paul and Minneapolis and also people who are against the stadium but one of the things we did was when people came in and said look we can do this. We can build this kind of a stadium in our city for this much money. We said, okay, we're holding you to that we wanted to put limits in the bill to make sure that the stadium commission would would be fiscally conservative. And so we put in the limits that people promised and the fact that a lot of those proposals have now been eliminated indicates that in some cases the people were making promises that they couldn't keep on the other hand. It also says that the that the two plans that are still in the running are are able to live up to their to their original promises and have not yet it inflated in cost Senator key for you and other Stadium proponents at all concerned about the possibility that spectator interest in professional Athletics might decline rather dramatically over the next couple of years for a variety of reasons which perhaps we can't even predict right now perhaps Spectators will be become less interested in the professional Athletics for whatever reason is that at all concern you Oh, yeah, there there are all kinds of things that could happen. That's not the only one Minnesota's Bad Business climate could lead to a substantial reduction in population in the metropolitan area, which would have the same effect even if people still love to professional sports, but I think you have to be bullish about the about the future of the metropolitan area and our and our state and and worked to to help it expand I think over the last few years. If anything the opposite has happened with the tremendous explosion of interest in in professional soccer, but I also think that as people become better educated goodness. The coming generation is a lot better than educated than my generation and we are even a little bit ahead of my parents. There's more Leisure Time more interested in entertainment activities and if it's not professional sports, it'll be something else rock concerts or theater or ballet. What about something else? And that is the issue of behind-the-scenes activity of both Bloomington supporters for a new sports facility in Minneapolis supporters how intense has the lobbying? Tivity bin what are some of the sorts of things that the proponents on each side have engaged in have there been lots of free trips here and there or what are the sorts of things associated with this activity while when the stadium issue first roles, there was a an awful lot of wining and dining and a lot of legislators were invited to things and many I'm just refused to go because they thought it was getting very excessive myself included. I never went to any free baseball games or football games or dinners or anything else about the statement. That's true of that's true of most but I had to be particularly careful because I was carrying the bill as a matter of fact, I'm sure the lobbying effort is very intense, but the stadium commission is very independent. They don't depend on anybody's Goodwill to get reelected or anything else and that was that was part of the idea in in setting them up and while I'm sure they're being lobbied like crazy. They're in a position where they have nothing to worry about but the (00:17:06) merits Well on that on that point of the stadium commission and the lobbying that is going on they could choose not to build anything at all. How would you feel about that? Would you would you be disappointed? Would you want to introduce another bill? (00:17:23) Well, I would be disappointed because I think it's a I think it's a good idea to build a stadium. But it was also we thought it was very important to make sure that that was that was clearly one of the options available to them because we not only wanted to pass a bill that said make sure that Minneapolis and Bloomington are as good as they say they are compared to each other but also make sure that they're that the promises they've made to the legislature and to the people are promises that they can really keep and if they can't if the stadium can't be built without costing the property taxpayers a penny then it shouldn't be built at all. And that's a that's a legitimate alternative available to them. I'm a little nervous because I think that that the lack of response of the teams when we were working on the And coming up with better language on the on the league guarantees, which they've suggested that they can't live with may lead to not building a stadium not because it's financially infeasible. But because the kinds of contracts we've written into the bill can't be obtained from from the League's we told them to give us language they could live with that would still guarantee the teams to say here and they wouldn't do it. So that may be the reason for not building it not even the financial problems and that state senator Steve Keefe and admitted Stadium proponent in the Twin Cities area. Thanks a lot for joining us today on midday. Thank you, Dan.