Vikings stadium: Boosters see clear benefits where skeptics see more empty promises

Fourth of a multi-series

stadium-2
(MGN Online)

Half the cost of the newly opened Vikings Stadium, known as the “People’s Stadium” before its corporate branding, has come from the people’s money — taxes and related public subsidies totaling more than half a billion dollars. Now is the time to assess just what the people, especially Black people, have received for their money thus far, from groundbreaking to grand opening and beyond. Who has benefited most from the controversial project? Has the Black community shared in the benefits? This multi-part series has sought answers to these and related questions.

 

The new downtown stadium is the area’s third stadium built in the last 10 years. It is projected to generate over $26 million annually in tax revenue as well as over $145 million in “direct spending” by fans attending Vikings games.

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) officials earlier this year told the Minnesota Legislature that the new stadium will have “a major impact [on] the local economy, both in employment and in providing revenue to hundreds of Minnesota companies.”

“It absolutely will have an economic impact on the community,” predicted City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Director Craig Taylor. He quickly cited the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four and related events scheduled for the stadium as examples.

“It is an opportunity for our community in terms of the jobs that will be created. Contracting opportunities that will be generated for our small businesses, particularly minority-owned businesses, will continue.”

However, similar economic projections when the Twins ballpark and the Gophers on-campus football stadium opened also were made by local officials and stadium proponents. Some Black community members argue that such economic opportunities have yet to reach economically depressed areas like Minneapolis’ North Side, which lies just a few miles away from these sporting venues. Some express skepticism on the new Vikings stadium’s economic boastings as well.

“The question is if the ‘People’s Stadium’ will be a benefit for those living in the community. It’s an open-ended question,” noted Neighborhoods Organizing for Change Executive Director Anthony Newby. “They spend over a billion dollars of our money. Can they generate some real jobs and prosperity for the people who live here?”

“What the stadium has done is have the city stay relevant and be perceived as a progressive city, but from an opportunity standpoint,” said Minnesota Vikings Executive Vice-President Kevin Warren.

“I don’t think it will benefit me at all,” said longtime Northside resident Melvin Washington, who attended the stadium’s free public open house in August.

“We had 195,000 people who downloaded tickets for the public open house, then we had roughly 13,000 walk-ups — over 200,000 people came to the open house,” reported MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen, who told the MSR that the weekend event “probably was the most important thing we could have done” to bring as many as possible to view the new stadium.

Kelm-Helgen reiterated that the Vikings stadium will benefit all Minnesotans, economically speaking, and especially communities of color. “I can assure you,” she said, that many Blacks and other people of color will be working there because of several job fairs held before the stadium opened.

“The most important thing to me is our commitment to those equity programs and employment of people from Minnesota, the targeted ZIP codes, women and minorities continues with the operation of the stadium,” said Kelm-Helgen.

“As I walk around the building, there are a lot of people of color in the building,” reported Cleaning Services Manager Ed Reynolds. “This building has provided a lot of opportunities not just [for] Blacks but other minorities.”

Michele Kelm-Helgen
Michele Kelm-Helgen (Photo courtesy of MSFA)

Monterrey Security won a three-year contract to provide crowd management and 24-hour security. People of color and women make up two thirds of its workforce, according to the Chicago-based firm’s website. Kelm-Helgen said in a press release that the hiring of the Latino-owned operation “keeps our equity focus on the stadium’s operations.”

“Personally and economically it is important that we operate from a diverse landscape and give people of color in the community [opportunity] to grow and learn their business, and do good things,” said Warren.

“I think when you include community groups [in recruitment and outreach efforts], your odds of success goes up,” stated Kelm-Helgen. “We are going to have to prove it to people, but I think our numbers will show our commitment. This is a priority.”

“When I was at the stadium, there were a lot more people of color than I’ve typically seen at other stadiums,” observed HIRE Minnesota Campaign Organizer Nick Kor. “People are serving [and] are working in the suites. Custodian staff and all that stuff — it was different.”

Many of these workers will not only work Vikings home games, but other events as well. How many of those other events? “These are all folk in temporary or part-time jobs,” answered Kor. “I don’t know actually how many hours they are going to get.”

“I think now that the doors are open…people are able to see firsthand what a marvelous opportunity and building this is, and how it is going to impact our community,” said Taylor. “I think people’s opinions — those dissenters [and] naysayers — have come on board.”

To convince people who don’t care about sports, such as Washington, on the importance of the stadium, Warren surmised, “There has been over a billion dollars of economic development in that part of downtown” where the new Vikings stadium is located. “There’s condos, restaurants, a lot of activity at that part of town. There will be a multiplicity of events that will come not only to the Twin Cities…based upon it being built there. It will have a great impact on the city and the state.”

“This is the ‘People’s Stadium’,” said Taylor. “I think this is something that is going to bring people together, regardless of race or religion.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

The MSR welcomes reader comments and feedback. Please note your comment may also appear on our Opinion page in print.

Related Content:

First installment: Vikings stadium payoff: What’s the return on our investment so far?
Second installment: Minority workforce and subcontracting goals were exceeded
Third installment: Diverse cleaning crew charged with huge facility’s maintenance
Fifth installmentVikings stadium payoff: Collaborators tout equity success in stadium construction
Sixth installment: North High victory Prep Bowl at Vikings stadium offered affordable look at facility
Seventh installment: 2019 Final Four planners aim high for diversity, inclusion