Vikings stadium jobs: Gov. Dayton, beware! And have someone check those employment numbers
Whether you are for a new publicly financed Vikings stadium or not, one statistic continues to be kicked around. It seems as if it’s one that absolutely needs to be nailed down before any specific amount of state or local funding is thoughtfully allocated to the project.
It’s about jobs, jobs, jobs.
No one is against job creation, and it’s going to be the talk of the Legislature come January, whether it’s linked to the Vikings project or not. Construction trades have been hard hit by the recession. Construction workers are heavily unionized. Unions backed Gov.-elect Mark Dayton, including the steelworkers, operating engineers, electricians, machinists and Building and Construction Trades Council.
They are the sorts of folks who build stadiums.
Here’s the question: Just how many jobs are truly “created” when a stadium is built?
One of the operative statistics was repeated Friday by Dayton.
He noted in a statement: “Any new stadium must first benefit the people of Minnesota. If it’s 8,000 construction jobs over the next three years [emphasis ours] and those tax revenues, the contracts with Minnesota businesses and those tax revenues, and the other economic benefits to our State exceed any public costs, then it is a good deal for the people of Minnesota and I will support it.”
This 8,000-jobs figure is one we briefly kicked around in an earlier analysis of Independence Party candidate Tom Horner’s Vikings proposal during the gubernatorial campaign. But it remains a bit squishy.
Here’s what we think we know.
• A study (PDF) commissioned by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission in 2009 and conducted by the respected facilities consulting firm Convention, Sports & Leisure (CSL) projected 13,400 full- and part-time jobs “related” to construction. [emphasis ours]
(The MSFC supports the construction of a new stadium and, under Dayton, will likely continue to be actively involved in any planning. CSL has been the consultant to the MSFC for about 20 years. Fair or not, their numbers are easy targets for stadium critics, who can argue the commission and CSL have a dog in this fight.)
• When the MSFC announced a stadium plan a year ago, Mortenson Construction’s senior president, John Wood, was quoted as saying: “Construction will employ up to 8,000 [emphasis ours] well-paying trade professionals over a 36-month period.”
“Up to” is not the same as 8,000. And it’s a lot fewer than 13,400.
Projections are one thing, but here’s what we know about the work forces that actually built stadiums. These numbers make us wonder about the projections.
• Take TCF Bank Stadium, the rescue shelter for the Vikings and Bears tonight. It is significantly smaller than any proposed Vikings stadium, has far fewer amenities and no roof.
When these Vikings’ stadium studies were undertaken by CSL, the cost of the proposed stadium was a whopping $954 million, or about $666 million more than TCF Bank Stadium’s final costs.
So, size does matter when it comes to the army of workers needed to build these edifices.
Still, according to Mortenson communications manager Cameron Snyder: TCF Bank Stadium employed a total of 2,200 tradespeople over the course of its construction, with a 750-person peak workforce.
Far fewer than 8,000, even with a stadium project three times bigger.
• Take Target Field, which cost about $555 million to build. Upon opening, the Twins touted this figure: 3,500 tradespeople worked on it, with an 800-person peak workforce.
Far fewer than 8,000.
• Outside Minnesota, a good model is Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. Indeed, at one point, the Vikings expressed interest in a facility just like the retractable-roofed Indiana facility. Published reports there have pegged construction jobs between 4,900 and 6,000.
Still fewer than 8,000.
Here’s the point: One major plank in any stadium debate will be what sort of boost it can give to the construction trades. For now, the numbers seem to be, at best, uncertain and, at worst, inflated.
As Gov.-elect Dayton gets set to meet today with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and kick off the beginning of an important relationship, here’s a suggestion from the upper deck: Assign some analyst in the Department of Employment and Economic Development, or some numbers genius in the Legislative Auditor’s Office to dive quickly into a trustworthy study of the jobs that truly can be expected from any Vikings’ stadium construction.
Having such reliable data in hand would be a good start to what needs to be a straight-talking statewide conversation about how to get our arms around this superhot, pigskin-wrapped potato.