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Things are Getting Interesting in the North Star State

Tensions ran high at a meeting Tuesday regarding the proposal for the new Twins stadium that I blogged about here. Here is a Minneapolis Star-Tribune article on the meeting.

One day after being formally unveiled, the newest proposal for a stadium for the Minnesota Twins had a turbulent hearing Tuesday in Hennepin County as opponents argued that the $478 million project was being rushed toward approval without public input.

Though a slim majority of the County Board is believed to support the project, the seven commissioners postponed an initial vote on the 42,000-seat stadium for at least one week. The delay followed a two-hour session in which a familiar throng of supporters and opponents -- many of whom have long debated the merits of a new baseball stadium -- alternately praised and criticized the plan.

"I'm not surprised by it," Commissioner Mike Opat, a lead negotiator on the project, said afterward. "It's a big step." Opat said stadium supporters would have to wait to see whether a majority of the commissioners would vote for the project.

But Commissioner Linda Koblick, who objected to the attempts to give the plan a quick approval, said after the meeting it probably had enough votes to move forward.

"When does the public get to weigh in on this?" Koblick asked.

As I mentioned in this post, if the Twins and some Hennepin County supporters have their way, voters won't get to weigh in. Tom Powers from the St. Paul Pioneer Press weighs in:

I don't care if they build a ballpark or not. But if they are serious, the best way to get it done is to keep the people — and their elected representatives — out of it. It's absurd to call for a referendum on the .15 percent Hennepin County sales tax that would help pay for the facility.

Listen, my tax dollars are put toward a lot of crap that I don't like. Nobody asked me first. The citizens of Hennepin County should swallow the tax and keep quiet about it. It's a tiny amount. And they'll reap a disproportionate amount of the benefits, anyway, including job growth and an economic boost.

So citizens are only supposed to voice their opinions at election time? Other than that, put up and shut up?

Long-time readers of this blog know the general consensus of economists on this subject. Just for fun, what do Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys have to say about this job growth and economic boost?

“Our conclusion, and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy,” Humphreys and Coates wrote in a report issued last month by the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. The institute commissioned the professors to study the economic impact of a deal proposed by Anthony Williams, the mayor of Washington, D.C.; under terms of the agreement, the Major Baseball League would move the Montreal Expos to the nation’s capital in exchange for a new, city-built ballpark.

The professors based their report on new data as well as previously published research in which they analyzed economic indicators from 37 major metropolitan areas with major-league baseball, football and basketball teams.

“The net economic impact of professional sports in Washington, D.C., and the 36 other cities that hosted professional sports teams over nearly 30 years, was a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area,” Humphreys and Coates noted in the report.

Here is the Cato publication by Coates and Humphreys referred to in the quote above. My little foray into the economic impact of stadiums is here. Here is a book on the subject.

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