BEST BOONDOGGLE - 2004
You think this is no fait accompli? You think our political leaders will heed all those opinion polls and assorted municipal referenda that have demonstrated, time and again, the public's opposition to further subsidizing big-time sports? Then you probably also think Minnesota is a good government state. The sad reality is that the political culture in Minnesota is essentially indistinguishable from that of Indiana--a flatland mix of reactionary social policies, regressive taxes, and religious hokum. This is precisely the sort of environment that favors big-time sports. So the only questions about the stadium issue are in the particulars of when, where, and how. Not why. Look no further than the governor's office to see how much the political sands have shifted. Remember how State Representative Tim Pawlenty used to pump up his populist credentials with anti-stadium pontification? Now, as governor, Pawlenty is pushing for huge tax increment financing (TIF) packages for new Viking and Twins stadiums. It's a subsidy by another name. Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, elected largely on an anti-subsidy platform, is suddenly trying to drum up support for a Twins stadium he wants to build next to the county incinerator. For his part, St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly seems content to play the useful sap in the ballpark game--ensuring that St. Paul remains in the running long enough to drive up the public tab. Everyone, it seems, is suddenly beyond embarrassment on the issue. For sheer gall, however, nothing rivals the University of Minnesota's push for a Gophers stadium. Yes, the razing of Memorial Stadium was a historic blunder. Yes, it would be nice if the Gophers had an open-air stadium. But consider the context: The U just completed the biggest building boom in its history and students have been stuck with double-digit tuition hikes in consecutive years.