Heartland Institute Reacts to Monday Night Vote on Vikings Stadium Plan

Published May 8, 2012

Recent Heartland Study Outlines the Folly of ‘Sport Stadium Madness’

On May 7, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted 73–58 to approve a $975 million plan to build the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings a new football stadium. The state Senate was expected to vote on a similar plan Tuesday. The House plan forces the owners of the Vikings to raise $427 million of the tab from private sources.

“The taxpayers of Minnesota will be the big losers if forced to subsidize a new playground for millionaire players and multi-millionaire owners,” said Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute and author of its recent work on sports stadium subsidies.

Steve Stanek, a research fellow for The Heartland Institute and managing editor of its publication Budget & Tax News, said, “I wonder how many people who support taking hundreds of millions of dollars from residents to hand to wealthy sports team owners and multi-millionaire athletes also believe the wealthy should pay higher taxes? Do they fail to see the irony?”

The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank whose researchers have questioned government subsidies to sports stadiums since the mid 1980s, recently released a Policy Brief proposing fan ownership of teams as a solution to “sports stadium madness.”

“Sports stadium subsidies impose a huge cost to society,” Bast wrote in the brief, released in February. “Unearned rent being held onto by professional sports franchises, made possible largely by public subsidies for new sports stadiums and arenas, is a huge injustice and deadweight loss to the nation.”

“Unearned rent,” a reference to the work of economist Henry George, is created whenever private individuals use force or fraud to restrict competition, Bast notes. The solution, he says, is to remove the privileges that enable individuals and corporations to generate and keep unearned rent.

In the realm of professional sports, removing those privileges means fan ownership of sports franchises, ala the Green Bay Packers. “Because it is owned by the fans, the team will never relocate,” Bast writes, “so it can’t demand subsidies.” The Packers are the least-subsidized professional sports team in the country, he notes.

“The spread of fan-owned teams would break the subsidy culture that now grips all of the major sports leagues,” Bast concludes.

Bast’s Policy Brief, “How to Stop Sports Stadium Madness: Is Fan Ownership the Answer?” can be found online here.

For more comments about the Vikings stadium plan from experts at The Heartland Institute, please contact Tammy Nash at [email protected] and 312/377-4000. After regular business hours, contact Jim Lakely at [email protected] and 312/731-9364.

The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, DC. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.