While a hit with nearby businesses, Target Field still has doubtersby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — The Twins are struggling at the halfway point in the season, but their new ballpark, Target Field, has been a big hit with fans and many business owners near the park.
However, some say the infusion of economic activity near Target Field is not necessarily great news for everyone.
View a graphic showing the rise and fall of attendance at new MLB ballparks.
For Loon Cafe owner Tim Mahony, home games at Target Field lead to a full bar.
"Right before the game starts and people coming off the light rail and going to the game, they're excited," he said. "They want to see the ballpark. They want to see the neighborhood. And you know what? Happy people spend money."
Mahoney said business is better than last year when the Twins were playing at the Metrodome. He didn't have the sales figures handy, but compares the attendance figures between Target Field and the Metrodome.
"Again you're looking at 40,000 a game versus, last year, I think they averaged like 28,000 or something like that," he said. "[The Metrodome is] eight or nine blocks away. Now they're basically 285 steps out our back door ... I've counted the steps. Just for kicks and giggles."
Cuzzy's Bar on Washington Avenue North is several blocks farther from Target Field than the Loon, but owner John Lee said they're not too far off the beaten track for Twins fans.
"Business is great. We're up about probably a solid 35 percent and year to date from where we were last year," he said. "I think the entire area has really profited from what's transpired in the area."
Several other downtown bar and restaurant owners and managers said they're seeing a similar economic bump, and a few have said the $260 million in public money used to build Target Field is turning out to be a wise public investment.
ECONOMIST: STADIUM NOT BOOSTING EVERYONE
The formula for economic impact isn't as simple as watching some bars fill up with free-spending fans, said Art Rolnick, the senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
"Suppose the Twins had stayed in the Metrodome and played there instead and we'd taken that $260 million and lowered taxes for every business in downtown Minneapolis," he said. "My guess is you'd have a much stronger, much stronger economic environment."
Rolnick said what's really happening is that money is being shifted from one region to another. So it's natural for hospitality businesses near the ballpark to consider the .15 percent sales tax that's helping pay for Target Field a good investment.
But businesses further away in Hennepin County may be seeing less revenue as people take their money downtown.
Rolnick said there are better ways to stimulate economic growth than creating winners and losers based on geography.
"What really drives economies, what really drives long term economic growth, what really drives well-being of people is investment in human capital," Rolnick said. "Education -- that's where we're failing. I'm not worried about entertainment."
Rolnick said investment in public education is the best use for public dollars. He said local employers need educated workers more than they need entertainment venues. But Rolnick said the investment in education won't pay off for decades and admits that's not quite as attractive as a brand new shiny stadium.
This year the Twins expect more than three million fans to come downtown to watch the team -- up from 2.4 million last year in the dome. That bump is typical of the increase new ballparks enjoy in their first year, according to Major League Baseball attendance figures.
But a sustained boost isn't the guarantee that it was 10 or 15 years ago. Over the last decade, several teams -- including Milwaukee and Detroit -- have seen attendance drop off 20 percent or more as soon as the second year after opening a new ballpark.
- All Things Considered, 07/16/2010, 5:50 p.m.