The Big Story Blog

Vikes plan most subsidized? A look at NFL stadiums

Posted at 11:50 AM on October 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Environment, Sport

State Sen. John Marty began a debate Friday with an essay arguing the proposal to fund a new Vikings stadium in Arden Hills amounted to the "#1, all-time, biggest taxpayer subsidy of any sports franchise anywhere in American history! "

It's pretty intriguing. But it depends on how you look at it:

The National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School collects really good data on stadiums, costs and public financing. We looked at the institute's data on NFL teams.

Marty's right when it comes to public dollars spent. The Arden Hills financing plan calls for $350 million in revenue from Ramsey County generated by a sales tax increase and $300 million in state payments (still not decided on where that money would come from). Right now the Vikings would kick in more than $400 million.

So the plan comes down to about $650 million in public financing. None of the NFL stadiums on the Marquette list top that.

But is that the best way to examine the data? If you look at the data and ask have other cities subsidized more of the total cost for and NFL stadium, the answer is yes. In fact, the 60 percent public subsidy on the Vikings stadium looks relatively reasonable.

Some examples from the Marquette data:

University of Phoenix Stadium built for the Arizona Cardinals, opened in 2006, 76 percent publicly financed

Georgia Dome, home to the Atlanta Falcons, built in 1992, 100 percent publicly financed.

Century Link (formerly Qwest) Field, home to the Seattle Seahawks, built in 2002, 83 percent publicly financed.

There are also a bunch of examples where owners built stadiums with minimal or no public subsidies.

Cowboys Stadium cost $1.15 billion -- the closest to the estimated cost of the new Vikings Stadium. It opened in 2009 with about 30 percent of it publicly financed.

Take a look at the Marquette data and tell us what you see. Post some thoughts below.

One other note: Here's the data Marquette collected on the Metrodome.

Stadium: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Date Built: 1982
Facility Cost ($/Mil): $68
Percentage of Stadium Publicly Financed: 81%
Facility Financing: Financed through the sale of $55 million in revenue bonds, a hotel and
liquor tax that raised $15.8 million, and a Metro liquor tax that raised $8 million. The City of
Minneapolis spent $4 million on the infrastructure costs. The remaining costs were financed with
$13 million in interest earned on the bonds and $7 million from the Vikings and Twins (MLB)
for auxiliary facilities.

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.

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