OPINION: Another stadium blunder?
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 5:05 AM
For over 30 years, Minnesota legislators and local officials have stumbled and bumbled their way through a half dozen taxpayer funded stadium deals.
Now as the 2013 legislative session draws to a close, they are about to commit yet one more in a long list of stadium building blunders.
This time it's not the billion-dollar football palace for the New Jersey developer Zgyi Wilf, but rather just a small $50 million dollar ballpark in St. Paul.
This latest stadium blunder started last year when the state legislature set up an economic development slush fund, which allowed Gov. Dayton to pick the winners.
In this multi-million dollar give away, Gov. Dayton picked his political ally Mayor Chris Coleman to receive $25 million in state taxpayer funds to construct a new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints in downtown St. Paul.
The day after Dayton announced the $25 million award to St. Paul for the ballpark, Mayor Chris Coleman awarded a no-bid design-build contract for the project. The mayor's hasty and illegal actions brought a lawsuit to require a competitive bidding process, which three months later, awarded the contract to the same construction company it previously selected.
But like most stadium stories in Minnesota, this tale doesn't end here. For the past year, a small group of St. Paul residents have fought to provide input on the stadium design. Despite their pleas to city council members, legislators and the mayor's office, no one will listen.
Their alternative plan would incorporate the ballpark into an existing building on the site and create over 350,000 sq. ft. of commercial space within the re-purposed building.
This is a common sense solution that would cost taxpayers less and create an enormous public benefit.
Now state and local officials are poised to commit yet one more stadium blunder.
After legislators promised not to finance a new Vikings stadium with taxpayer dollars, they passed a flawed funding scheme that depended on revenue from electronic pull-tabs.
During the debate, one state Senator called the funding source "fairy dust". As it turned out he was right, the revenue from E-pull tabs has fallen far short of projections, and now state legislators have proposed filling the funding gap with a sports memorabilia tax of 13 percent.
As the 2013 legislative session draws to a close, state lawmakers could avoid one more costly stadium blunder.
Legislators could simply require another look at the design of the St. Paul ballpark. A common sense cost saving solution that would include the reuse and re-purposing of an existing facility to benefit St. Paul residents.
Chances are slim this will happen, because as legislators work to fix last year's stadium blunder, they are about to commit yet one more.
Phil Krinkie, a former eight-term Republican state rep from Lino Lakes, is president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.