Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate

Vikings stadium jobs: Gov. Dayton, beware! And have someone check those employment numbers

Vikings stadium jobs: Gov. Dayton, beware! And have someone check those employment numbers

A study commissioned in 2009 projected 13,400 full- and part-time jobs "related" to construction of a new Vikings stadium.
Ellerbe Becket
A study commissioned in 2009 projected 13,400 full- and part-time jobs “related” to construction of a new Vikings stadium.

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.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Ray H. on 12/20/2010 - 08:54 am.

    Direct workforce numbers are not the entire story. The true economic impact of large projects is extremely difficult to capture. How are indirect workforce numbers measured for a stadium projects? There is a significant down stream economic impact to vendors, suppliers, and sub-contractors for a large project such as a stadium. These numbers are squishy, but are very real.

  2. Submitted by Judy Grundstrom on 12/20/2010 - 09:18 am.

    I agree with Ray Hagen, the true economic impact of large impacts is difficult to capture. I am a Registered Architect in the State of Minnesota and this article didn’t even talk about how a new stadium would help countless architects and engineers. I would like to add that unemployment in the architecture market is at 70% in Minneapolis right now. This is an emergency situation. Instead of picking it apart, and saying a new stadium isn’t doing “enough” good, how about getting it going and having some relief where it is needed most?

    Also, a big part of this is about the stimulus construction of a new stadium brings. A stadium project spurs on new development around it and countless other projects for architects, engineers, and contractors to work on.

    I can’t think of a more negative and less helpful way talk about the Building and Construction Industry right now than how Jay Weiner just did here. The argument, “sure, it’s help, but not enough pennies in the right column!” argument is shocking. We need relief, we need it now, and it doesn’t matter if Jay Weiner can’t add how many jobs it creates. Next time look at the entire industry and you may be able to count higher.

    Judy Grundstrom

  3. Submitted by david zuhn on 12/20/2010 - 09:30 am.

    The question is not whether spending money creates jobs. It’s pretty clear that this does in fact happen. The question is who is the money being spent to help?

    If the state can afford to spend a billion dollars on a new stadium and the associated infrastructure, in order to financially benefit a billionaire team owner, all in the name of providing a few thousand jobs for a few years, it could also:

    build, remodel & maintain public facilities such as schools, universities, libraries

    maintain & build new roads, transit stations and other transportation facilities

    repair & offer for resale many of the houses that have fallen into disrepair due to inoccupancy

    The same amount of money spent on these projects would likely generate roughly the same number of jobs, but do so with a larger benefit to the entire populace of the state of MN.

    This money could also be spread around the state, so that the jobs benefit is not largely tied to the Twin Cities workforce.

    Fixing up homes around the state would help to increase the value of the surrounding properties, offering a real value to many more citizens of the state than a stadium would.

    If the newly-elected Republican Legislature passes a Vikings stadium bill under the mantle of a “jobs jobs jobs” policy, wouldn’t that be an admission that government spending does indeed play a role in the economy, in a Keynesian fashion?

    Or is it only acceptable to directly support businesses in this day and age and forgo the possibility of investment in the public infrastructure of this state?

  4. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/20/2010 - 09:31 am.

    In the case of the Metrodome, the Twins stadium and TCF, I haven’t seen much or any additional new building going on around them. The same old buildings are in place near the dome and the Twins field that were there before those places were built.

    It should be emphasized that those construction jobs are temporary and that when the project is over those people will be going on unemployment. A big boondoggle project like this is probably the least efficient way possible to help people in those industries. Saying that the architecture market is at 70% unemployment (very hard to believe, sorry) is another way of saying those people should be training for needed jobs and that that market is bloated by way way more workers than it needs. Judy is saying that 7 of every 10 people working or desiring to work in the architecture field are unemployed? Really? Maybe they can retrain to take some of the permanent jobs that will be created by a new stadium. Either they can become millionaire football players or minimum (or less) wage resstaurant workers.

  5. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 12/20/2010 - 09:33 am.

    Let me see… at a time when we’re likely going to be having to cut funding for nursing homes, home health care for the elderly and handicapped, schools at every level; while large numbers of our state’s citizens struggle with unemployment and even homelessness,

    A bunch of our states wealthiest citizens and their employees, who are also far wealthier than the rest of us, want us all to chip in to build them a new playground where they can spend a few hours a week messing around playing their favorite game…

    which does nothing for anyone else except, on the rare occasions they win, allows us to sit in our recliners, drink our beer and high-calorie snacks and feel (wrongly) as if we’re winners, too because they’re “our” team.

    There are countless ways that the citizens of Minnesota could gain far more benefit, individually and all together than spending a billion dollars building this playground for the rich.

    Encouraging each other to get up out of our recliners on Sunday afternoons and get more exercise, and providing interesting and fun ways for us to do so would help us all become healthier AND help us feel far better about ourselves than the rare Vikings win ever has. Furthermore, the fact that we would feel better would NOT be an illusion.

    Meanwhile, let the rich owners and players associated with the Vikings build their own stadium. They could do it with the change they find in their pockets, their couches and their own recliners.

    Better we should spend the money building public fitness centers with indoor running tracks, cross country ski and snowmobile trails, etc. all across the state.

  6. Submitted by Judy Grundstrom on 12/20/2010 - 10:10 am.

    People’s comments on not caring about the Building and Construction industry or the unemployment crisis happening in architecture are typical as seen here.

    Let me just say a few things. First of all, horizontal construction (such as roads and bridges) do not create jobs for architects, mechanical, electrical engineers, or a number of contractors who have been hit by the recession. Also, residential construction creates the same issues. Many builders and clients do not hire architects and engineers for those projects like a large construction project such as a stadium would.

    You don’t see new buildings go up in the area of the Twins Stadium because it is in a Historic District. Many projects have happened in buildings there, but yes, they are the “same old buildings” just adapted for historic re-use. I would argue that there have been many new buildings going up around the U of M TCF stadium and still are.

    Also, yes, I agree that work should be created in the public sector such as schools and libraries but stadium projects should be seen as civic projects as public events happen there and they are places for more than just football games.

    Every single construction project is temporary. That is the nature of the business. The idea is to get relief and stimulus going in the industry.

    It is very difficult to identify the number of jobs lost in the architecture industry during the recession, but a number of firms have been closed during the past three years in the Twin Cities and most others are at about 50% employment of what they used to be at. I am sorry if this is hard to believe but it is true. As the AIA says in this report, many of the staff left are non-architectural. To find out more read the report: http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/2010/10/101025real_employment.asp

    Architects can work out of their field, and I do that now. This is not an excuse to let an entire industry implode. While having jobs outside of the Twin Cities is important, the lions share of the architects and engineers in the state are based in the Twin Cities.

    This is not a republican issue. I am a Democratic Activist and very involved in the party. I feel the pain of the unemployed and the homeless. I have seen countless of my friends in the Building and Construction industry be unemployed for years now, lose homes, and many other things. This is not about rich people. I wouldn’t speak out on this issue if I didn’t think it was important, the right thing to do, and the right time to do it.

  7. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/20/2010 - 10:14 am.

    If I promise to create 8 jobs*, may I have $500,000 in taxpayer money?

    * warning: some of those jobs may be temporary

  8. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/20/2010 - 10:22 am.

    Judy Grundstrom writes
    “Every single construction project is temporary. That is the nature of the business. The idea is to get relief and stimulus going in the industry.”

    You make a valid point that some stimulus is necessary to nudge our economy back to a healthy state of sustainability. I question whether building a stadium is the kind of project that would add stability to the construction industry. A different point is that 70% unemployment in architecture perhaps reflects an overcorrection in the market, but we should also recall that that before the recession, the real estate bubble likely helped that field grow to an unsustainable size.

  9. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/20/2010 - 11:04 am.

    Yes, jobs are created in the construction process, but the same quantity of jobs or even more would be created by funding a number of smaller, more intricate projects. Then there is even the possibility of creating construction jobs where the final beneficiary will not be the relatively small pool composed of team owners, players and people who can afford to attend the games.

    Look at where the money goes when a single gigantic project occurs.

    There is a relatively small team of design professionals involved–usually a firm and subsidiaries located somewhere else in the country, employing some other states citizens.

    There is one construction manager, again quite likely located in another state.

    There are contractors and subcontractors, again quite possibly located out of state, drawn by the honey of specialized work in a large project.

    The recycle rate of the project cost in the state is lost because quite simply the profit from the performing the job goes elsewhere.

    There are direct employment opportunities for the people who actually work on site, but I would contend that the number of workers is significantly smaller than the number that would be required on more intricate, smaller projects of the same total dollar size.

    It’s an inefficient use of money if you want to increase construction employment in Minnesota.

    As for “permanent” jobs, how many people would be “permanently” employed in a facility that is open 10 days a year?

  10. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 12/20/2010 - 11:24 am.

    Jay… this is from a recent email I sent to Governor-elect Dayton’s office. It will give you the best measure of construction jobs related to the building of a retractable-roof or a fixed-roof stadium.

    In an article in today’s Pioneer Press, (Minnesota Vikings kick Dome while it’s down) Governor-elect Dayton is quoted as saying:

    “If (a new stadium’s) 8,000 construction jobs over the next three years 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.”

    In December 2009, Mortenson Construction did say 8,000 people would work on the three year construction project to build a retractable-roof Vikings stadium, but most of those people would have very short-term, part-time jobs.

    Actually, 8000 “jobs” is a gross exaggeration. During their campaign for passage of Measure J earlier this year, the S.F. 49ers only claimed 700 construction jobs would be created for 2.5 years during the construction of their proposed open-air stadium in Santa Clara, CA.

    Mortenson also said there would be 4.6 million work hours involved in building a retractable-roof Vikings stadium and 4.25 million work hours involved in building a fixed-roof stadium.

    If a “job” is defined as 2000 work hours per year, each full-time construction job lasting three years would involve 6000 hours of work.

    4.6 million work hours divided by 6000 hours = 767 full-time jobs lasting three years to build a retractable-roof stadium.

    4.25 million work hours divided by 6000 yours = 708 full-time jobs lasting three years to build a fixed-roof stadium.

    The 8000 jobs Governor-elect Dayton is talking about would only involve 177 work hours per year for three years to build the currently proposed fixed-roof Vikings stadium. That’s less than five weeks work per person per year.

    Concerning Governor Dayton’s meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the governor should ask Goodell about the NFL’s stadium funding program. Most importantly, he should ask Goodell what’s the most the Vikings could receive from the NFL for the construction of a new stadium in MN and what would the Vikings need to do to qualify for that amount of funding.

  11. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 12/20/2010 - 11:48 am.

    I’m not sure what is “shocking” to Ms. Grundstrom about this analysis. With any large project, a basic accounting of how much it helps vs how much it costs is core to coming to a decision. I would like to see a detailed, credible analysis of the benefits of a new stadium, including number of immediate jobs, projected spending downtown, etc. I’d also like to see an analysis of the downsides: people spending 1,600 dollars on a pair of season tickets are not spending that money in their own community, but rather sending it to the Wilf family.

    But, ultimately, for me it comes to this: The person who immediatly reaps the single biggest benefit of a new stadium is the owner; thus, he should pay the single biggest share of the cost (it’s probably too much to ask that the entire project be privately funded, although the Patriots seem to be doing just fine with that approach)

    As for where any non-team money comes from, I have some suggestions:
    -the business owners (bars, restaurants, hotels) who want the 60,000 people in their neck of the woods for 10 sundays a year can pony up. How about a 1% tax on all downdown restaurants on gamedays (I’ll stay home)
    -add a tax (or fee, in honor of the outgoing governor) to the new jerseys sold every time a new millionaire savior is signed
    -Charge a penny for online commenting on vikings stories on the strib site

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/20/2010 - 11:59 am.

    //Let me just say a few things. First of all, horizontal construction (such as roads and bridges) do not create jobs for architects, mechanical, electrical engineers, or a number of contractors who have been hit by the recession. Also, residential construction creates the same issues.

    First, yes they do create jobs. This work is contracted out as the we all learned after the 35W bridge collapse. You may not be a civil engineer, but that was your choice, no one guaranteed work. What are you gonna do after this stadium is built? How many stadiums do you think we can build around here?

    So we should create billion dollar public sport subsidies in order to create work for architects? That’s actually a new one.

    Judy, we had a construction bubble, that bubble burst. No stadium will re-inflate it. It’s probably the case that we are saturated with engineers and architects who had work during the bubble aren’t going to have work now that it’s burst. I don’t mean to be unsympathetic, and I wish everyone the best, but that’s the nature of capitalist economies and bad public spending policy won’t fix it.

    There are three basic principles that should govern all public spending policy. 1) Public spending should always seek to deliver the most benefit to the greatest number of people, it should not redistribute wealth into the pockets of the already wealthy. The wealthy can benefit from public spending, but they shouldn’t benefit more than everyone else. Why? Because it’s not their money and we’re not all here just to make other people rich. public spending isn’t the only source of revenue in a capitalist economy. 2) Public infrastructure and safety must be public spending priorities. 3) Public amenities are appropriate public spending targets but their benefits have to be public, the primary function can’t be to generate profit for private entities. Furthermore amenities are always subject fiscal restraints, as “want’s” rather than “needs” they must submit to whatever fiscal realities the public is faced with at any given time.

    Stadiums for professional sports teams fail meet any of these criteria. The stadiums themselves are not public infrastructure, neither their construction or operation delivers substantial benefit to a large number of people. It’s very difficult to imagine public spending that delivers less bang for the buck, and delivers it to fewer people than a pro-sports stadium. We put 350 million public dollars into the twins stadium; it’s sitting there empty right now for months. It’s bringing no one downtown, creating no jobs, and generating no economic activity. A Vikings stadium is even worse, they’ll play what 6 games a year? For a billion dollars? You can claim stadiums are amenities, but they fail to meet affordability criteria and their primary benefit goes to the owners and players who are already wealthy.

    I’m all for creating jobs and if you have a billion dollars to spend I can give you a whole list of projects that will create jobs, sustainable growth, and enhance the over-all economy of the state or the twin cities. I’ll do whatever I can to put Judy back to work, but stadiums are a bust.

    It’s simply inappropriate for elected officials to sit around and construct these welfare programs for the wealthy. If you’ve got a billion dollars, or some way to raise a billion dollars, the last place that money should go is into a stadium for a billionaire. Especially when we’re looking at 6 billion dollar deficits and getting ready to cut health care and basic services for thousands of Minnesotan’s.

    I always thought Dayton was being clever with his statement that the public has to make more than they put in. In fact we already know that the public never gets more than it puts into stadium. The T-wolves arena is costing MPLS two million a year, they’re not making any money off of it. Likewise the Twins stadium is costing 20 million a year for the 30 years, and after that it’s doubtful the public will make any money on it. The best the public can ever hope for with stadiums is to break even from an economic perspective. I had thought this was the card up Dayton’s sleeve. You could build a stadium in such a way that the public cost was minimized, and the return enhanced, but the billionaires won’t go for that, it’s not about making the public money.

  13. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/20/2010 - 12:50 pm.

    Construction is a waste of money? The jobs, jobs, jobs mantra is a lie, you say?

    I could swear I’ve heard that before, but something has changed.

    See, if I’m not mistaken, and I’m not, MinnPost writers have expended no small effort in defending Obama’s failed stimulus spending; backing the ludicrous jobs numbers comes to mind, in particular.

    In fact I seem to recall Dave Brauer waxing eloquent about cash for clunkers!

    The inescapable conclusion one is left with is that MinnPost, and by extension their leftist readership, are not against wasting tax dollars (spare me the “duh” here, please), just discriminatory about the direction they get wasted in.

    I’ve no argument with that; I’m just wondering if it ever occurs to the editors of MinnPost what hypocrisy like this costs them in credibility, and readership.

    Or is it that you hold the intelligence of the faithful in such small estimation you count on them believing Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia?

  14. Submitted by david zuhn on 12/20/2010 - 01:08 pm.

    // stadium projects should be seen as civic projects as public events happen there and they are places for more than just football games.

    If this is a civic project, then all of the value from the project should flow to the community that funds it. But stadium tradition asks the public to pony up the vast majority of the funds needed to build a new venue, for which such other valuable items like the naming rights, the parking & concession revenue and high-end features like box seating revenues go directly to the private owner of the team for which the stadium is built.

    That’s why the U of MN and the Vikings “couldn’t” share a stadium — the other non-ticket revenue, which is so valuable to the owner of the franchise, couldn’t be split between the Viking and the U.

    When the public benefits financially from all aspects of the stadium, or the private side puts up a proportionate amount of the stadium costs as the revenues he/she will receive, then we can talk about the stadium as a civic project akin to a library.

    When all of the upside goes to the private side and all of the costs are borne by the public, that’s nothing more than a government subsidy to the wealthy.

  15. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 12/20/2010 - 01:26 pm.

    “A stadium project spurs on new development around it and countless other projects for architects, engineers, and contractors to work on.”

    Oh please not this again. That’s exactly what they said would happen when the Metrodome was built. Precisely ONE business opened as a result: Hubert’s.

    Furthermore, the new Vikings stadium will host ten games a year. Ten. That’s if they don’t make the playoffs. If they make the playoffs, maybe 12. How many auxiliary businesses can survive on customers only 3.3% of the year?

    “I would argue that there have been many new buildings going up around the U of M TCF stadium and still are.”

    Those buildings are UMN science research buildings and have nothing at all to do with the stadium. They are not impacted by its presence.

  16. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/20/2010 - 02:10 pm.

    Thomas Swift writes
    “See, if I’m not mistaken, and I’m not, MinnPost writers have expended no small effort in defending Obama’s failed stimulus spending; backing the ludicrous jobs numbers comes to mind, in particular.”

    The two major flaws of the stimuls package passed early in the Obama administration were: 1) it was too small and 2) it was 40% tax cuts.

    Given the evidence at hand – i.e. the Bush tax cuts – I think its safe to say that tax cuts do not effectively stimulate the economy. After all, if they did, the economy would be going gangbusters now – wouldn’t it?

  17. Submitted by Tony Spadafora on 12/20/2010 - 02:36 pm.

    You can’t justify the kind of public investment the Vikings are asking for based on the construction “JOBS” created.

    It would amount to over $1 million in public funding for each full time jobs lasting three years.

  18. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/20/2010 - 03:49 pm.

    Tom Swift says: “The inescapable conclusion one is left with is that MinnPost, and by extension their leftist readership, are not against wasting tax dollars (spare me the “duh” here, please), just discriminatory about the direction they get wasted in.”

    Perhaps it is because they have enough sense to regard the project as ludicrously beyond “wasteful” to devote public resources to primarily increase the wealth of Mr. Wilf and build a facility that will used 10 days a year by people for who a low salary is in the seven digit area.

    Or is Mr. Swift in favor of enormous waste for all?

  19. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 12/21/2010 - 06:30 am.

    Finding a strategy for building a stadium is a very difficult. Wool must be pulled over the public’s eyes in just the right way. But the outline of the current strategy is emerging. What our legislators are trying to get away with is pretending that the Vikings Stadium is an issue separate and apart from the 6.2 billion dollar deficit we are facing. During the upcoming session we will be taking huge cuts in a variety of public services. There will be much rending of garments, and I believe even some gnashing of teeth. But once that’s done, stadium supporters believe they can ride in on a white horse, with a stadium proposal with beautiful architect’s drawings accompanied by promises that some other dude will have to pay for it, and they will claim that after all the horrors of the session, this will be the panacea for getting the economy going again, and a way for us all to feel good about ourselves again.

  20. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/21/2010 - 09:12 am.

    I agree with Hiram in #19. The stadium guys keep saying we have to find a solution. The solution the public supports is the Vikings shut up or move or build their own stadium. The NFL, the Vikes and their fans just won’t accept NO as answer, so they keep saying we have to find a solution (meaning build a new stadium at public expense)that will instantly make Wilf’s investment worth another half a billion and will give them a place to play 10 times a year.

    If there is some alternate revenue stream that would pay for a new stadium then that revenue stream should be used to cut down the deficit and supply needed services.

Leave a Reply