Sunday, February 19, 2012

Build a New Stadium

My father-in-law sent me this message during the night – from his spot out there among the stars: “Build a new downtown stadium for the Vikings, damn it!”
by Charlie Leck

I don’t often agree with a local sports columnist by the name of Patrick Reusse. He normally looks at local sports situations with eyes too jaundiced by his tired attitude – the result of years and years on the job. Reusse forgets that competitive commercial sports, and the spectators who enjoy them, are built on attitudes of hope and the dreams that hope inspire. He’s constantly ragging on the negative rather than looking at the heroic and hopeful. I’ve put him in the bad-ass category and, to avoid gas, I rarely read him.

This morning, however, the headline on his column caught my attention and I decided to work my way through a few paragraphs. I ended up reading the entire thing in fascination.

Our region has been caught in the National Football League’s sharp-toothed, steel trap. We must provide more than half the cost of building a new stadium for one of the league’s owners, or else! So, the debate has raged on here.

Frankly, I didn’t expect the kind of thesis that Reusse developed in his column this morning to ever come from him. He began…

“This is now a metropolitan area of 2.85 million. Nothing is more important to this sprawling place than a downtown with a strong heartbeat. And what provides the heartbeat are people coming to the city on a daily basis to work, and suburbanites, outstaters and regional and national visitors enjoying that downtown.”

That’s exactly true. My late father-in-law was always very involved in the Minneapolis Downtown Council, an organization of downtown businessman who promoted virtually the same message that Reusee opens up with in his column this morning. As a member of that Council, my wife’s father was extremely involved in bringing the Washington Senators to Minnesota in 1960 and then downtown in the early 80s. Oh, how thrilled he would have been to see the incredibly beautiful and successful new ballpark that the state and county helped the Minnesota Twins open just a couple of years ago. Target Field! What a contribution that ballpark is to the entertainment industry in downtown Minneapolis and to the overall vitality of this community and region.

As expensive as it will be for the state, the construction of a whopping, beautiful and dynamic new stadium in downtown Minneapolis for the Minnesota Vikings (NFL football team) will be an extraordinary boost to our entire metropolitan region.

My readers from around the nation have probably seen the same kind of economic boosts that an NFL stadium can bring to communities in their area – Atlanta, Dallas, Tampa, Charlotte, Seattle, Denver, NY/NJ…

Let me tell you, Reusse’s column this morning isn’t only right-on – it’s completely right on – and has a sound and feeling of sympathy and empathy that one rarely sees in Reusse’s columns. You only have to read the first five paragraphs of this piece to hear a compassionate heart beating loudly and clearly in the surly old newspaperman.

It’s not easy to agree that our state, county and metropolitan region should pony up so much money to help billionaire owners build stadiums for their teams (their private corporations). The problem is how much it will hurt our economy if we don’t.

“We could so easily be another decayed downtown, if not for the corporations, and the law firms and the accounting firms, and the retailers that remain committed to being in the city, when everything could be cheaper and more convenient by joining the sprawl in Maple Grove or Eden Prairie or Eagan.”

Oh, Grandpappy Lyman, the man is singing your song! You must be hooting and hollering up there and doing triple salchows in the sky.

“Last month, Sandra Colvin Roy, another of the dedicating lefties on the Minneapolis City Council, announced opposition to the plan for a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis without a city-wide referendum (that she knows would fail).
“Roy was moved to do this, she said, after ‘looking across the street at Occupy Minnesota and thinking about what’s going on in our country…’
“…One wonders whether she ever made the short walk to the Nicollet Mall, between ninth and tenth streets, and watched employees by the hundreds enter and exit the Target Corp. headquarters.
“I’m saying Minneapolis might be better off with politicians more impressed by the presence of an exceptional corporate citizen bringing a parade of employees downtown on a daily basis than a couple of hundred protesters sleeping over-night during an uncommonly warm fall and early winter.”

Reuse is right on – and I’m saying that from my usual perch way out here on the left. A new stadium means construction jobs by the hundreds and hundreds. It also means more vibrancy for downtown and thousands of jobs that will be stimulated by the new stadium.

“Some way, we have wound up with politicians who would put the cleaver to a great asset for the state’s largest city, and then offer the silliest of explanation, like 1) several score of people sleeping outside on government property, and 2) a few guys from Plymouth who would rather not pay an extra 3 percent for a Dewars and water at the Seville.
“What stands in the way of a stronger heartbeat for downtown Minneapolis are the collections of the nearsighted that we have elected.”

And that, my dear, late father-in-law,is how the Reusse column ends. If you were still around, you’d be on the phone to him to congratulate him on some handy writing and sound thinking.

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