Thursday, October 20, 2011

What happened to corporate stadium contributions?

While the debate swirls at the Capitol, the sources of funding for a proposed Vikings stadium revolve around three sources, the state government, a local government, and the team. When you compare the present proposals to past examples, one funding source is missing - corporate contributions.

Photo Credit: Bobak Ha'Eri, Wikimedia Commons.
The Metrodome cost approximately $123 million to build (in 1980-1982), including costs to acquire land, improve the site infrastructure, and move a Hennepin County juvenile detention facility. Of that total cost, corporations contributed over $15.5 million, and General Mills put up another $1.5 million to purchase tickets to prevent local media blackouts. The list of corporations that put up money looks like a who's who of the local business community at the time: the Star Tribune, Dayton Hudson, General Mills, Pillsbury, Honeywell, Graco, Control Data, Medtronic, Land O' Lakes, M.A. Mortenson, Faegre and Benson, Piper Jaffrey Hopwood, Mackay Envelope, TCF, Munsingwear, and on and on.

All told, corporations other than the Twins and Vikings contributed over 13% of the total cost of the Metrodome. Local financial companies (First Bank Minneapolis, First Bank St. Paul, The St. Paul Companies, and Northwestern National Bank) purchased all of the $55 million in bonds that were issued to finance the stadium. But you haven't heard a whisper of the corporate community kicking in on the cost of building a Vikings stadium. 

Financing for the new Gophers stadium included an even higher level of corporate contributions. Much  of the cost of building that stadium was raised privately, most from corporate contributions. The biggest chunk of this came from a $35 million agreement to sell the naming rights to TCF, but also included $10 million from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, $2.5 million from Dairy Queen, $2.5 million from Best Buy, and $2 million from Target. These contributions came with sponsorship and advertising opportunities that offer value for these corporations. 

One argument you hear all the time in the stadium debate is that major league sports allow the Twin Cities to attract and retain corporate headquarters. The financing package that built the Metrodome showed that the business community was willing to put skin in the game to ensure the Vikings stayed in Minnesota. This time, Governor Dayton is asking for their help to lobby the Legislature to approve the state share of a Vikings stadium. 

This difference says a lot about the cultural change in politics, business, and professional sports over the last 30 years.

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