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Continued: Legislators weigh Super Bowl tax breaks

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 24, 2014 - 7:38 AM

To sidestep a nasty election-year fight, legislative leaders increasingly favor signing a letter to the NFL vowing to work it out before the game. That’s the approach state leaders have used for other high-profile events, such as the Republican National Convention.

Legislators are weighing taxpayers’ investment as community leaders are preparing to commit to raising roughly $30 million to bring the event to Minnesota.

The Twin Cities last hosted the Super Bowl in 1992, and community leaders are eager to showcase the area again.

A net plus for Indiana

Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, spends her days poring over economic studies and data from other Super Bowls and has come to her own conclusion: The tax breaks are worth it.

A recent study of the economic impact of the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis showed that the state took in an additional $39.9 million, even after all the tax breaks it provided to host the event.

“It is going to bring in ­significant tax revenue,” she said.

Dayton noted that if local communities had any misgivings about the overall economic benefit, New Orleans and Indianapolis would not be fighting so hard to get it back. “It’s a very good deal,” he said.

Dayton acknowledged that passing the tax relief package is probably out of reach in an election year.

Experts who study the economic impact of Super Bowls remain deeply skeptical about the sky-high predictions.

Lost in the hoopla over the highly touted benefits, they say, is a list of unaccounted-for costs, like additional law enforcement, preparation and cleanup.

Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College, said much of the reported economic impact is for player salaries, souvenirs and other money that leaves the community after the game.

Oftentimes, the hassle of the event drives away people who would have visited the city otherwise. Studies show that this year’s Super Bowl resulted in disappointing occupancy rates for hotels in New York and New Jersey.

“When you consider all of that, the economic evidence is significantly muted, or close to zero in some instances,” Baade said.

Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, is concerned that any economic benefit won’t reach residents in low-income areas.

“I am really reticent to do anything more to help the NFL,” said Hayden, who did not support the new stadium.

As part of any deal, he wants a rock-solid guarantee that the NFL will hire lower-income and minority workers for a share of the Super Bowl-related jobs and vendor contracts.

“I might get outvoted in this body, but what I am looking for is the direct connection to people who are really on the lower end of the economic spectrum,” Hayden said.

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