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LETTER: Vikings need a stadium solution

Some say that given the poor economy, high unemployment and the budget difficulties facing Minnesota, now is not the time to address the Vikings Stadium issue. We believe these reasons are exactly why the Minnesota Legislature should find a stadium solution this session.

In 2009, unemployment in the construction trades, those workers we represent and would work on a new Vikings Stadium, was roughly 25 percent. This is three times greater than Minnesota’s unemployment rate of 7.4 percent. There were almost 40,000 less construction workers employed last year than in 2005. The loss of each job represents a family struggling to make a mortgage payment, provide healthcare for their family and otherwise make ends meet. In addition to this unacceptably high level of unemployment, there is a significant number of under-employed construction workers; individuals working less than full-time and losing benefits such as healthcare and pension credits.

The bonding bill approved by the Legislature and the Governor earlier this session and the recently passed jobs bill will have an impact on these unemployment figures. But far too many more will continue to remain unemployed.

This is why we believe it is the time for our legislators to address the Vikings stadium issue. A new Vikings stadium creates a significant number of jobs. Over a three-year period, a new retractable-roof Vikings stadium creates approximately 7,500 construction jobs. More than 4.2 million work hours will be created, and the total wages and benefits paid construction workers on this project will exceed $286 million. These construction jobs begin almost immediately. If the Legislature authorizes a new Vikings stadium this session, preliminary construction will begin this Fall with roughly 1,600 jobs and approximately 906,000 hours of work occurring in the first year. As was the case on the Twins ballpark and TCF Bank Stadium, 95 percent of these jobs will go to Minnesotans.

These construction jobs are only the beginning. A new Vikings stadium will require hundreds of millions of dollars in materials, which creates a substantial number of jobs with corresponding wages and benefits. The operation of the stadium, when completed, supports another approximately 3,400 jobs. Adding it all together, a new Vikings stadium delivers immediate jobs and sustainable jobs for the community into the future. It does so at a time when they are desperately needed by the construction industry and others.

State government also benefits from putting people back to work. Jobs generated at a new Vikings Stadium create approximately $10 million in income tax revenue for the State’s general fund. It generates over $5 million for the State’s unemployment insurance fund and saves tens of millions of dollars more in payments it would otherwise be making to unemployed construction workers and others. It saves the State’s general fund millions more as these workers will not be utilizing medical assistance and other State programs they would otherwise be eligible for because of their unemployment. Once completed the economic activity from a new stadium will generate over $26 million per year in tax revenue, including $18 million annually generated by the Vikings.

Like every other NFL community that has addressed this issue, Minnesota will ultimately find a stadium solution. Minnesota can’t afford to let the Minnesota Vikings leave. Acting now will give the construction industry a significant boost at a time when it is desperately needed. Failure to act this session only increases the cost of a stadium and delays its benefits for unemployed construction workers and other unemployed Minnesotans.

Harry Melander, President

Minnesota State Building & Construction

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