Minnesota’s 2018 Super Bowl Gamble: Are the Costs Too High for Local Taxpayers?

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Minnesota is gearing up to host the 2018 Super Bowl, and the state’s gamble is a $975 million football stadium partially funded with $500 million in taxpayer funds. This multipurpose venue will replace the Minnesota Vikings’ former home, the Metrodome, and is on schedule to open for the 2016–17 NFL season. But the big question? Whether America’s newest sports arena is worth this exorbitant cost to Minnesota residents, who already have one of the highest tax burdens in the country.

All About the Stadium

This shiny new stadium comes with 65,000 general seats and the ability to expand that capacity to 72,000 seats. The stadium also has 131 suites and 8,000 club seats. It will include multiple gift shops, restaurants, and a Minnesota Vikings museum and hall of fame. The team’s contract ties it to the stadium for 30 years, and like most standard contracts, the Vikings would have to pay a hefty fine to leave early. That fine, however, wouldn’t recoup the millions paid in state and local funding.

A Sales Tax Exception at the Stadium

State legislators have voted to continue a tax break on big-game ticket sales, an exemption that’s been on the books since the Metrodome hosted the 1992 Super Bowl. Even with this $9.5 million tax break, the Super Bowl is one of the country’s top-grossing events and offers an estimated $200 to $500 million to local and state economies.

Not everyone agrees with the state’s decision to fund and grant sales tax exemptions for the billion-dollar sports organization. Senator Scott Dibble even introduced a bill to repeal or reduce the tax subsidies, but it was defeated based on the fact that the breaks were “part of the state’s successful bid to land the game.”

Is the Hype Worth the Cost?

The problem with the stadium isn’t its initial cost. Rather, it’s the burden on the taxpayers who foot the heavy bill, many of whom never set foot in the stadium. Sports stadiums are a gamble; just because you build them doesn’t mean people will keep buying tickets to go there. Once something new is built, the hype is gone.

More than 100 sports stadiums have been built over the past two decades, according to the Pacific Standard. In 20 years, when taxpayers are still paying for the stadium, will it still be hosting events that bring in millions in revenue to cash-strapped cities?

Minnesota representatives can’t answer that question right now, but they haven’t stopped trying to bring in the big names. On top of the 2018 Super Bowl, the new stadium will host the 2019 NCAA Final Four and is bidding on the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Only time will tell if the stadium’s surge will continue long enough to pay off the investment or if it will end up like one of the many ghost stadiums around the world, such as Detroit’s once famed Silverdome, which now sits in shambles in a city falling down around it.