On this whole sports complex thing

If I need to catch you up to speed, Mankato is thinking about leveraging a half-cent sales tax (in addition to another sales tax for other various city improvements) so that it can build a regional sports facility.

Yes, I’m opposed to it, no not because I’m curmudgeonly or bitter, but because I hate top-down development.

I’m trying to figure out the logic here, it seems that ever since we got MSA rating we’ve had an over-inflated sense of importance. Now, this isn’t to say that MNK metro (my name for it) isn’t important to the region, but gosh, we’re not Minneapolis, we’re not even Rochester.

But here we are again, debating whether or not to build a regional sports complex. I don’t know all the details that are entailed, but I know this: we don’t have to try and be all things to all people.

$40m odd dollars is not something to scoff at.

The regional sports complex is good if you’re looking to support your community from the outside, but that’s not what we should be looking to do, we should be looking to strengthen the assets that we already have and taking the money and re-investing it into our community.

You know how many parks we could buy with the money for a sports complex? You know how many miles of bike lanes? Co-ops, Festivals, House rehabilitations, Transit improvements, Brownfield mitigations you could get?

The sports complex is supposed to be a regional destination so that all the little towns in the area come to Mankato for some sports stuff or something like that. In so doing, they will spend money here and that will help the economy.

Ok, I thought we were heavily subsidizing the civic center for the same reason, no? So that we could hold events and people would come and eat and drink and spend money, no? Is that not right?

Here’s my problem with the whole thing, I want to know how a regional sports complex helps the dry cleaner down the street from me, or the lumber yard at the top of the hill, or the dentist… or really anything that’s not food/bev/hospitality/retail.

The majority of Mankatoans are not restaurant owners, nor do they work in food/bev/hospitality. Actually, most of the industries that are set to benefit from a regional sports complex are national chains who will just export their profits to corporate HQ doing little or nothing for the community.

Republicans definitely have it right when they say “government shouldn’t pick winners and losers” (not that they always abide by it, but it’s a nice sentiment.) That’s exactly what we’re doing here, a bunch of businesses get to “win” while people who will literally never use it (like me) have to pay the half-cent sales tax to make sure it keeps going.

The sad part is, we don’t even know if it’s working, we’re not tracking our ROI on these projects except for standing outside a Maverick’s game on a Friday saying “look at all these people!”

If you have two minutes, watch this video from Strong Towns about the “Real Return on Investment.”

If you didn’t watch let me give you the TL;DR version. Government taxes to create something, that something brings in revenue that is funneled to the private sector, the government never gets all it’s money back (most of the time.)

There’s just no way that we will generate $40m in sales tax revenue directly contributed to a sports complex in any reasonable amount of time AND collect enough to cover operating costs.

It just. Won’t. Happen.

There’s an element of belittlement as well. You’re reducing the members in the community to consumers. That’s it. Just buy buy buy to make sure we can have a sports complex. Thanks for valuing me so highly.

Like I said before, $40 million could be spent way better than on a sports complex.

It’s frustrating to watch the good people of Mankato be cheerleaders for a project that won’t really help them. You won’t see your wages improve or your bills go down, you’ll just see your money gobbled up for something you’re probably not going to use.

Just remember, last time we had a large influx of government money for economic development we tore down this

pg 7b

At least we get to vote on it…I guess.

My buddy and fellow blogger Jordan Campbell at Redjacketkato.org also wrote about this. Follow him. He writes better than me.


Cover photo from the Verizon Wireless Blog

About Matthias Leyrer

Matthias Leyrer is a resident of Mankato looking to restore a fraction of its old glory. He writes about the economic, aesthetic, practical and financial issues facing the city of Mankato going forward.