A look at bad stadium deals through the ages
IN YET ANOTHER snub to Couch Slouch's "No More Stadiums, With or Without Tax Subsidies" Tour, the state of Minnesota - the premiere serial subsidizer of the 21st century - is publicly funding an almost $1 billion football facility.
Here is Minnesota's updated stadium/arena scorecard:
The city of Saint Paul is still trying to pay off $40 million in loans for the construction of the Xcel Energy Center hockey arena in 2000. Then there's Target Field, the Twins' baseball stadium opened in 2010, a $522 million project that included $392 million in public subsidies. And now the Vikings will get a football stadium to replace the Metrodome in 2016, with half of the funding coming from Ma and Pa Twin Cities - $348 million in state money, $150 million from Minneapolis.
So billionaire Vikings owner Zygi Wilf will receive the largest welfare check in state history, while the state continues to cut social programs.
"I'm just so surprised we're tripping over ourselves trying to be the hero of the franchise," said state Sen. Warren Limmer. "We've been struggling with our budgets the last few years. We're struggling with, 'How do we take care of little old ladies in nursing homes?'"
Here's the answer - see if those little old ladies have enough money saved for Vikings season tickets and then they can forget all their troubles eight Sundays a year at a new stadium!
Next up: St. Louis, where sports columnists and civic enthusiasts are salivating at the prospect of spending $500 million or $600 million to renovate "outdated" Edward Jones Dome, which opened in 1995.
Anyway, in tribute to the ancient tradition of play palaces at public expense, we now present a somewhat incomplete, occasionally inaccurate history of major sporting venues:
Panathenaic Stadium, Athens: Hosted the first Olympic Games of the modern era in 1896. Originally constructed in 566 BC with wooden seating. But patrons got splinters, so in 329 BC - and I am not making this up - it was rebuilt in marble. In 140 AD, it was enlarged by Herodes Atticus, a disposable-income aristocrat big on stadiums, baths and nymphaea (shrines dedicated to nymphs); he was Gatsby before Gatsby.
Colosseum, Rome: Technically, the first stadium build with tax dollars and the first stadium built for an NFL team that never came; Emperor Titus argued at the time that "all roads will lead to the Roman Colosseum." But it ended up being utilized primarily for Christians being fed to lions, gladiator clashes and Bruce Springsteen concerts.
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas: Jerry Jones stole a page out of Donald Trump's book: Put up other people's money (uh, taxpayers) to build an unnecessary project, then walk around like Napoleon after the invasion of Russia. According to the Brookings Institution, the $1.15 billion facility - the largest domed stadium in the world - is responsible for 6.2 percent of all global warming.
Wrigley Field, Chicago: Home of the Cubs since 1916, it is, by default, the first corporate-named stadium. In 1937, Bill Veeck planted vines against the outfield wall to increase the property value, and, in 1988, lights were added to help ballpark custodians find chewing gum stuck under bleacher seats.
Madison Square Garden, New York: Named after Oscar Madison, local sportswriter who championed construction of The World's Most Famous Arena. Its latest incarnation opened in 1968, near the historic site of the first Bronx cheer, but Garden chairman James Dolan reportedly plans to raze the building and replace it with a premium cable package.
Wembley Stadium, London: Completed in 2007 at the cost of almost $2 billion, it is the world's most expensive stadium, with 2,618 toilets, more than any other venue; the original Wembley Stadium had a single, 12-foot-long trough.
Fenway Park, Boston: Built in 1912 to provide a safe, open public space for New England sports fans to congregate and complain.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Do you think the reason there are no longer Triple Crown winners is because thoroughbreds are not equipped to handle the present-day media frenzy that surrounds the chase? (Dan Hulihan; Rexford, N.Y.)
A. I'd lay the blame more on the hardships of present-day travel - most horses are worn down by heightened security measures at airports.
Q. Considering where it's been, were you surprised Lawrence Taylor's Super Bowl ring could fetch $200,000 at auction? (Andrew Blankstein; Indianapolis)
A. Wow, 200 grand? When I auctioned off my first wedding ring, I only got enough to buy a Double Double at In 'N Out Burger.
Q. Is it true the EPA has considered new regulations concerning the environmental impact of a Skip Bayless-Stephen A. Smith "First Take" and might consider repurposing the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository to handle the growing threat? (Don Frese; Towson, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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