City gave league free rent, discounted services for All-Star FanFest

Final figure from fan event and game is expected to rise.


A sign pointed to the All-Star FanFest held at the Minneapolis Convention Center, which waived over $250,000 in rental fees.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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Major League Baseball got free rent at the Minneapolis Convention Center for five days earlier in July as part of an agreement that brought the All-Star Game to Minnesota.

The city waived $258,850 in rental fees for the baseball enthusiast event FanFest, one of many provisions in a 16-page agreement signed in late June between the city’s convention center and baseball. The agreement, recently obtained by the Star Tribune, offers the first glimpse into the public costs of hosting the game.

MLB also got steep discounts for convention center security, audiovisual rentals, vacuuming and food, according to the agreement. The league negotiated other credits potentially totaling $150,000 to apply to those costs, leaving it unclear what the league will pay for the services. The city is still tallying those costs.

At least one city leader is concerned that free use of the taxpayer-backed convention center illustrates the hidden costs of bringing major events to the area.

“This clearly has to be addressed,” Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman said. “I am unaware of any other department head or top level staff with the authority to make a decision worth over a quarter-million dollars without any public discussion or vote of the City Council.”

Advocates for hosting the game say the convention center fee waiver and other discounts are a tiny fraction of the economic impact from hosting the game and related events, which some estimates peg at close to $75 million.

“We may have lost some revenue on a rental fee at the Convention Center, but overall the spending — which produces the sales tax which we live on — was greatly enhanced because of the All-Star Game and associated activities,” City Council President Barb Johnson said.

The final taxpayer bill for the hosting the event is still being tabulated. City officials said previously they expected overtime costs to reach $119,000 for street closures, traffic control, fire staffing and food inspections. But perhaps the largest overtime cost, law enforcement, has yet to be disclosed.

The Convention Center agreement satisfied just one component of the overall bid to host the game. Before last week’s game, city tourism officials and the Minnesota Twins had declined to make public the bid to host the event.

Minneapolis Convention Center executive director Jeff Johnson’s decision to offer free rent is not common for the facility. City officials said they have given free rent to events in years past, but the Convention Center did not offer the same benefit to any other group last year.

The city also received about 2,500 FanFest tickets as part of the agreement, 1,500 of which were intended for low-income children.

Major League Baseball spokesman Matt Bourne said Tuesday that waiving the center’s rental fee is common for host cities.

He also downplayed the costs for public safety that accompanied hosting the All Star Game. “Every city has an annual special events budget [and] there are various agencies that contribute,” he said.

Bourne said one other major component of the All Star Game bid included having the city attorney write “clean-zone” legislation that limited allowable activities in public spaces near Target Field during the event.

MLB also gained the right to determine what other events were also being held at the Convention Center during Fan Fest and that any other uses during the event faced league approval.

Major League Baseball officials also had the right to cover any Convention Center signs, advertising, vending machines and ATMs that were in conflict with the sport’s corporate sponsors.

MLB also kept all revenue from the sale of merchandise sold at FanFest and also was not obligated to pay the city a licensing fee.

Bourne added that many of Minnesota’s top public officials — from Gov. Mark Dayton to then-Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak — wrote letters of support asking that the league choose Minneapolis.

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