The Minneapolis City Council on Friday approved spending $900,000 to subsidize the public costs of hosting the 2019 NCAA Final Four men’s basketball championship, which will take place at U.S. Bank Stadium this coming April.
City budget officials say the public investment in the tournament will bring international exposure to Minneapolis, help the city build a long-term relationship with the NCAA and ultimately turn a profit for the city and local businesses.
Council Member Andrew Johnson was one of three who voted against the subsidy. He said the city too often approaches these kinds of “big shiny” events with a “spare-no-expense attitude,” and doesn’t give the same benefits to small business that generate jobs and other economic stimulus year round.
“The concept of giving this big public subsidy to these big events when we don’t give compensatory subsidies to small businesses is ridiculous,” Johnson said after the meeting Friday.
The tournament will cost $2.4 million for police, public works, the Minneapolis Convention Center and other city functions, according to city data presented to the council earlier this week. The event’s host committee raised $1.5 million toward those costs.
Last year, then-Mayor Betsy Hodges pledged $100,000 from a fund dedicated to downtown assets. The city will front another $800,000 from the downtown fund that it expects to make back through ticket sales and surcharges.
The city also expects to make about $1.7 million in additional revenue through sales tax and other fees, such as parking, said Minneapolis Chief Financial Officer Mark Ruff.
The city usually avoids subsidizing events, but it made sense for this one, said Ruff. “It’s just for these very large events, because in addition to just the cash, we get such great national exposure as a pretty fantastic place to visit.”
In return for the subsidy, the city expects to create valuable media exposure, sell out every one of its 9,000 hotel rooms and give a boost to business for downtown bars and restaurants, said city event coordinator Brittany Allen at a council meeting Tuesday.
“Almost 35,000 people downtown work in [the hospitality] industry,” she said. “These events fill our hotels and restaurants and really spur that economic growth there.”
Allen said 97 million people from 180 countries will tune into the tournament at some point, with 23 million watching the championship game.
In comparison, the Super Bowl brought about 125,000 visitors to Minneapolis earlier this year, and generated $370 million in net spending, according to a report by Rockport Analytics.
The city also hopes to strengthen its relationship with the NCAA and continue to bring major collegiate events to Minneapolis in the future, said Allen. Minneapolis is slated to host four other NCAA events in coming years: the women’s volleyball championship later this year, men’s wrestling championship in 2020, men’s basketball regional in 2021 and women’s Final Four basketball tournament in 2022.
Joining Johnson in opposing the subsidy were Council Members Jeremiah Ellison and Cam Gordon.