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The benefit of stadiums and sports teams as economic catalysts


This is the third article in my series on lessons learned from an economic development trip with the Orlando Economic Partnership to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Many of you might not know, I was born in Minneapolis. I am of German and Norwegian descent. While I haven’t lived in Minneapolis since I was five years old, returning to hear about building a culture of corporate excellence, vibrant and healthy downtowns, and publicly owned sports venues was valuable.

My first stadium visit was to the US Bank Stadium, home to the Minnesota Vikings. I had never walked into such a large indoor stadium filled with giant screens and a whole lot of purple seats. We heard from the COO of the Vikings Team, which is owned by the Wilf family, also the owner of our Orlando Emporia Soccer Stadium.

Orange County Commissioner District 2 Christine Moore
Orange County Commissioner District 2 Christine Moore

The Wilf family developed a clear mission and values. Their mission is to Be the Pride of The City. “We unite our community, create memorable experiences, and fuel the passion of soccer.” Their goals are to create a championship culture, create a best in-class fun experience, achieve financial targets, and make a lasting impact in the community.

The Minnesota Vikings support their own social service foundation. The foundation helps the community in several ways. It operates a food truck to assist in eliminating food insecurity. It provides Wi-Fi grants and tablets to citizens in areas which have educational gaps. It has a players’ council which serves as a social justice committee.

The Wilke Family representative spoke about the value proposition of large athletic and concert events for the Minneapolis area. They mentioned how the stadium was funded through a public private partnership. The Vikings are the tenants of the publicly owned facility. The world-class stadium was built about eight years ago for $1.2 billion dollars and seats about 67,000 fans. Today the facility would likely cost more than three billion dollars to build.

We heard from the CEO of the Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball Team. He also discussed the role of the team in building strong communities. He believes in being a caretaker of community assets and the importance of the actual location of the stadium. The Minneapolis stadiums were all constructed in one section of downtown Minneapolis. These public assets have spurred significant economic development in the area and led in part to the revitalization of downtown Minneapolis.

The final stadium we visited was Target Field, home to the Minnesota Twins. We met the team’s CEO and watched the team clinch their division. Winning came down to pitching in the 9th inning. It was exciting to root for my dad’s favorite baseball team. The CEO echoed the cultural value of winning teams to the cultural identity of an area, and many of the same comments mentioned previously. However, what I found most interesting was the county citizens taxed themselves 1.5% to pay for the stadium. I cannot imagine that would ever be supported here in Orange County. He said it took 10 years to pass and barely succeeded. But, today, with all the new jobs, economic development, downtown revitalization, and new opportunities, few question this taxpayer contribution.

This reminds me of building new sidewalks. Homeowners initially don’t like the idea of new sidewalks. Then after the sidewalks are built, I hear how residents regularly walk and start socializing more with neighbors. Don’t worry – I’m not proposing any stadium tax. We have the Tourist Development Tax to pay for the expansion of the Camping World Stadium. However, the effort of bringing people together for anything expensive or difficult always piques my curiosity. It was an impressive victory.

Finally, Minnesotans believe every entity should patronize their local businesses for needed supplies. Business and civic leaders participate in local chambers of commerce, downtown master planning, and support of non-profits and other philanthropic endeavors. Building a culture of success takes collaboration.

While I have been mainly engaged in musical and political endeavors throughout my career, I gained a greater appreciation for the value of sports while visiting Minneapolis.  Now please excuse me, I’m off to take my two granddaughters to an Apopka Blue Darter Football game.

Orange County, Opinion, OP/ED, Economic Development, Sports, Minneapolis, Orange County Commissioner Christine Moore, District 2