Suicide Squeeze

MIKE SMITH, JOHN O'BRIEN, AND CHRIS BROWN
   packers fans

A handful of Packer bars have sprung up in the Twin Cities, but Gabe's by the Park remains the granddaddy of them all, going on 15 years of hosting the green-and-gold faithful. And though the crowd wastes few opportunities to rip on Vikings fans, Minnesotans' reluctance to finance stadiums isn't a common gripe. "That's just screwed up, if people are so weak they can't tell the teams to hit the road," says Brent Potvin of Little Canada. "Pay your own bills." What if it were the Pack threatening to leave Green Bay? Could he justify spending tax dollars on them? "I don't even think I could do that," he says. "To see these players get paid that much, and then have the team turn around and say, 'Well, the city or state owes us something,' I don't think I could do it."

D. Kimber

Green Bay native Chris Brown, who now lives in Minneapolis, isn't so sure. "If I were in Wisconsin, and they were saying, 'We need this to keep the team around,' I'm sure that people would rally," he chuckles. "We'd come up with ways to justify why we had to do it." Meanwhile, he says, spurned Vikings fans do have options. "I always welcome them into the fold," Brown says, "as long as they realize it's a one-way trip." (Pribek) CP

ERIC HARE
   policy wonk

"I honestly believe that if the Twin Cities lost all its pro-sports franchises, it would look like a cold Omaha," Erik Hare says in measured, serious tones. He can't keep it up for more than 10 seconds, however, before bursting into a compulsive giggle. "Having said that, Omaha isn't such a bad place. Have you ever been there? It has a low crime rate, people tend to know their neighbors, and they never have their NFL games blacked out."

A politically plugged-in research engineer, Hare has lived up the street from the St. Paul Civic Center for the better part of a decade. And while he's generally opposed to public subsidies for sports facilities, he's of a divided mind when it comes to whether hockey would be good for his West Seventh-corridor neighborhood, Irvine Park. When the International Hockey League's Minnesota Moose played downtown, his neighborhood watering hole filled up with fans on game nights. But the regulars stayed away, so Hare's not sure if there was a financial bounce.

More significant is March Madness; the annual high-school basketball, hockey, and wrestling tournaments. "These kids come in from Roseville or wherever and they're in the big city and they're having the time of their lives. Pro games full of adults--they're not as fun."

Hare sounds surprisingly lukewarm for a homeowner about to end up within slapshot distance of an NHL expansion team. But let him range onto the topic of arenas-as-urban planning, and he's suddenly animated. The Target Center, Whopper-box facade aside, is at least smack dab in the middle of Minneapolis's night life, he notes. But both the Civic Center and the Metrodome are surrounded by barren concrete aprons. And under the Twins' proposal restaurants and bars would be inside a new stadium's walls.

"It's the stupidest damn thing, and why a city would promote that is beyond me," Hare rails. "The idea of spending money [on a sports facility] is that it's an investment: Bring people in and they spend money. But if you subsidize their entire experience, you never collect." His biggest fear for St. Paul, he says, is that "we blow the wad on hockey and leave the empty concrete wasteland around it. That sort of prepackaged thing is pure evil." (Beth Hawkins)

JAMIE MCGOVERN
   publican

The owner of Shannon Kelly's Brew Pub, a neighborhood pub located a stone's throw from the Civic Center, still licks his chops thinking about the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament held in St. Paul in last year. His Sixth and Wabasha eatery attracts suits from Ecolab and The St. Paul Companies by day, hotel workers and tourists at night. But during the tournament, "people would come before and after the game. The revenue generated that day would be more than a 30 percent increase." Going pro--the National Hockey League promised the city a franchise last spring--could mean more of the same, McGovern says. "It's gonna be like having a WCHA hockey tournament 45 to 50 nights per year."

What's more, he adds, pro sports boosts downtown traffic even on non-game nights. "It dispels the enigma," he explains. "People say, 'Let's go downtown. It only takes five minutes to get there, parking is easy, and there's a lot of restaurants.'"

Yet McGovern won't grant pro teams carte blanche, drawing a careful distinction between stadium subsidies across the river and the proposal to build a hockey arena in St. Paul. "The hockey deal is just a loan," he says. "The baseball thing has to be repaid--by taxpayers." For now he'd rather keep those dollars in his pocket. And if that means no stadium, or even no hockey--well, "life will go on." (Joel Hoekstra)

TRAVIS LEE
   radio
  personality

The stadium deal has never come up on "Let's Motivate," the biweekly KMOJ-FM show in which a gaggle of kids sit down with Travis Lee to discuss current issues. "They're not really interested. They can count, too. They count the millions the athletes and the owners are making, and they realize that they're not putting forth. All of us would like to get our whole lives subsidized, but just because we see a crack in the wall doesn't mean we get to demand a new house."

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