My Rybak post the other day, though intended to be less about the stadium itself and more about what what we would be better off building instead of a stadium, prompted me to think a bit more than I wanted to about the Metrodome site for a new Vikings stadium. Specifically a revelation about the plan to capture parking meter revenue prompted me to write a whole new post for this, but there are a couple other pieces I’d like to cover as well, and hopefully this post will prompt a catharsis that will put the whole topic out of my head. Bear with me, please.
Minnescraper user newsole pointed out that it appears that only parking meter revenue from days with Vikings games would be dedicated to the stadium. The plan doesn’t explicitly say that, but it does say that in the first year $842,500 would be raised from “1,000 Meters at $25 Plus 1,975 Meters at $30 each”, which newsole mathed out to “1000 meters x $25 + 1975 parking spots x 30 = $84,250 per game. 10 home games = $842,500 the first year.” Convincing, but it does raise even more issues in my head.
First, the cost of operating parking meters is not nothing. Since this plan uses almost half the meters in the system, it presumably would represent almost half the daily cost of running the system. (We’ll ignore the fact that these should be some of the more expensive meters to operate; since they are some of the highest-demand meters they are the ones that will offer the highest ROI for enforcement, so the city should also be spending more time enforcing them. I don’t know if it actually does, though.) However, the plan dedicates all of the revenue from these meters to the stadium, leaving other meters to cover their cost. This is probably a relatively small cost, but it does remove revenue from other meters that would otherwise go to the general fund, so effectively more meters than the plan states will be going to stadium costs. Presumably this is omitted from the plan out of laziness more than deceptiveness. It’s not clear that the meter revenue is an attempt to present a veneer of user tax, and if it is, a bit more thought will show that to be untrue, as my next point may indicate.
Second, if 2,975 meters are dedicated to the stadium, some of them are going to be far enough from the stadium to be unintuitive for use as game parking. Assuming 14 spaces per block face without curb cuts, the 227 block faces east of Marquette and north of 11th would account for 3,178 spaces, so presumably that’s the approximate area being considered for revenue capture. But it’s hard to imagine someone cruising past all those ample lots in East Downtown still looking for a meter. Because of the huge numbers of meters involved, this is going to be true regardless of where the line is drawn. Many of these areas are nonetheless high-intensity destinations, and thus likely to suck in parkers despite the distance from the stadium. But is it realistic to expect full occupancy all day? Which brings me to….
Third, football games seem interminable to me, but my understanding is that in reality they only last 3 hours. In some cases, people will arrive early and stay downtown all night before driving home. These party animals may pay for a full day’s worth of parking, although my guess is that it would be rare for them to arrive at 8am, and those football fans that stay past dinner will be the exception. I don’t know what the specific pricing plan is, but the current max rate of $2 per hour would net $30 per day if it were in use for the longest meter time, 8am to 11pm, currently only applied in the Warehouse District. To get $30 per day for a more realistic estimate of a typical Vikings fan’s visit, say 6 hours, the rate would have to be $5 per hour, more than double the current highest rate and five times more than current rates around the dome. Maybe people would pay – I don’t think that’s any higher than event parking in lots, and it would offer the advantage of not having to wait in line to exit the lot. But it still seems unrealistic to expect the full daily amount at almost 3,000 spaces on every game day. To get that, we’d probably need a Vikings team that’s a lot better than we’ve seen in a while.
Going with the wind
Someone needs to tell Ted Mondale or R.T. Rybak the old proverb about the devil you know, since the vagueness of the East Downtown proposal seems giving birth to monsters in the minds of key stakeholders.* This problem is compounded by the fact that the Metrodome sit has gone through several cuts of revisions, to the point where it makes up at least 6 mostly contradictory entries on Bill’s Top 19 Renderings list, the most recent of which I think is #19 on this list, summarized by the author as “I have no idea what is going on with this. Are those trees?”
This key stakeholder confusion bubbled over into an even more obfuscatory Star Tribune article about how some local counties’ morgues might merge and how mad Rich Stanek is about it, or something. Anyway, the story reports the Emperor Mondale offered the county morgue as tribute to the Vikings in the form of a plaza. If the team magnanimously accepts this offering and Hennepin County’s petty objections can be pushed aside, it would create a plaza of around 6.5 acres. Apparently added to that would be the balance of the Metrodome’s footprint after the new stadium was built to the east but overlapping it to some unknown degree.
For comparison’s sake, Elliot Park is 6.44 acres. Plazas of that size are usually described as barren and windswept. The U’s West Bank has been described as such despite having much smaller contiguous open spaces. Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, however, is about the same size and has been often praised, but has the benefit of being more park-like, with rows of trees and shrubs breaking up the space. We don’t have many clues as to what kind of plaza we’ll get, but the existing nothingness of East Downtown’s** streetscape prejudices me into the assumption that it will be more Tienanmen than Millennium.
11th hour for 11th Ave
Reuben discussed the fate of 11th Ave S on streets.mn recently. The pliability of this street is apparently responsible for the feasibility of the Metrodome plan, as by sacrificing itself it allows the Vikings to avoid playing at the U of M while the new stadium is under construction. But, as with the possible proposed plaza, details are scarce on just how 11th will be plied.
Reuben’s discussion pretty much nailed my concerns about the physical result of tussling with 11th – closing it would further isolate the already freeway-carved neighborhoods, there is a danger of severing or rendering less useful the crucial bike route, and decking the new stadium over 11th would probably accomplish those things and create quasi-freeway conditions that would endanger the usability of the street beyond the covered segment. My concern is more about the process – while 11th Ave doesn’t have metrowide significance, it’s pretty damn important to the neighborhoods it runs through. If the worst boogiemen are realized about the stadium plan, and 11th ends up tunnelized or severed, this will have been a significant change to local infrastructure that was initiated with almost no public input. I believe that EISes are usually waived for sports palaces like these, and I’ve heard no sign that the public will even be able to see the plan before it’s finalized, much less comment on it. Probably the most galling thing about it is that this type of top-down democracy is coming from touchy-feely democrats like Mark Dayton and R.T. Rybak. (The latter has been quoted as refusing to hold a referendum on the plan, saying “The referendum is when I stand for re-election.” The Mayor has that right, at least.) Mark Dayton, of whom I’m a huge fan, keeps rattling on about a “People’s Stadium” but has forgotten to invite the actual people. It’s amazing the hypocrisy that is exposed when a popular millionaire asks for a handout.
Are you done yet?
Whew. I hope that’s all I have to say about this stadium for a while. Hopefully you found something more interesting to read before you got to this part. If not, I promise not to do this to you again until at least 2016, when we all will start getting Stadium Investment Capture taxes deducted from our paychecks.
*I faintly remember a blissful time in my life before I was aware of the word stakeholder.