NFL

Using the NFL Super Bowl as an Economic Weapon

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We as fans put up with a lot of built-in injustice when it comes to the Super Bowl.  World Series, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals--fans have a chance to see their team play in their own city in those championships.  Sure--the Super Bowl is special, and isn't a series, and all that.  And we all accept that.  

The NFL has always picked the site and they always will.  So it goes.  The NFL has overwhelmingly gone with warm weather venues that provide an intriguing vacation destination and guarantee as much as possible that inclement weather won't make the game a defensive slogfest--Miami and New Orleans have hosted almost half (20) of all Super Bowls, for heaven's sake.

But the new trend of new stadiums being necessary to host is getting a bit of control or at least unseemingly obvious.  Build it and they will come, indeed--three of the next four Super Bowls will be hosted by cities who have finished construction on stadiums in the past three years:  Cowboys Stadium (2011, completed 2009), Lucas Oil Field (2012, completed 2008), New Meadowlands (2014, completed 2010).  The only exception is perennial host,  The New Orleans Superdome (2013).

Last week, in a story by Aaron Gould Sheinin for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that hasn't gotten a ton of play, Atlanta had Commissioner Roger Goodell down to talk about the possibility of them hosting another Super Bowl.  The Georgia Dome has hosted two previously--one just a couple of years after it opened, and another in 2000.  Goodell made his expectations pretty clear--"the competition for the Super Bowl is really at an all-time high, in a large part because of the new stadiums. The provisions that they have for a new stadium in this great community, I think that's a pretty powerful force. We have a history of going back to communities when they have those new stadiums."

That's a kinder, gentler version of the same kind of extortion owners use when they near the end of their leases, and want the public to kick in money for a new stadium.  Make no mistake about whose side Goodell is on here--it's not that he's rooting for Atlanta to get a Super Bowl, but just isn't sure, gosh darn it, if those meanies on the Super Bowl Selection Committee would deign to have a Super Bowl is such an old stadium.  He's assisting Falcons Owner Arthur Blank in his drive for a new, open-air stadium that is financed in large part by public money.  

How old is the Georgia Dome?  Under 20 years old.  Considering that the fine tax-payers of NYC are still paying for the old Giants Stadium, and will be for years to come, what freaking message does this send?  Hey, community, pony up hundreds of millions of dollars that will take decades and decades to pay off, and if you are lucky, your stadium will get rewarded once or twice before we ask you to do it all again.  

Which brings me, very briefly, to Mike Kazsuba's article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  It reports that the new Republican majority in the Minnesota House will be looking at ways to give the Vikings the public money to get them the new stadium they so desperately need.  The Metrodome is a venerable 28 years old, and obviously is no longer suited to host the Super Bowl, though it was in 1992.  Times change, Goodell will argue, and the Metrodome can't compete with the Power and the Glory that is Cowboys Stadium.  So, the story, if the parties involved get their way (and the 75% of Minnesotans who say no public funding for a new stadium are ignored) will go something like this:  

Legislature passes a bill for slot machines at the local horse track (also known as a "racino" or "the most regressive tax possible"), with a hope and a prayer that will it raise $500-$600 million dollars (that could go to infrastructure or education or something, you know, that benefits the citizens being taxed/fleeced) and the Vikings will kick in some amount of money.  New stadium gets built, gets rewarded with a Super Bowl, because that's how it works now.  But of course, it is Minneapolis in February, and the NFL won't reward it with another one for the following 15-20 years, at which point, the new stadium will be sadly lagging behind the Hologram Replays and Fellatio Booths that the Disembodied Head of Jerry Jones (kept alive in defiance of God and Nature) has installed in his brand new, $6 Billion Stadium, so if Minnesota wants the Vikings to be competitive and on the national scene, they'll have to tear down that 20-25 year old stadium that will take an additional 35 years to pay off.  

It's the Circle of Life, NFL style.