As the Minnesota Vikings push state officials for a new stadium in what many describe as a make-or-break year, two-thirds of Minnesotans say the team should stay in the Metrodome and 75 percent oppose public subsidies for the project, a new Minnesota Poll shows.
Yet the poll, which surveyed 1,206 adults, indicates a shift of opinion on the public money spent on the Minnesota Twins' new baseball stadium. While 40 percent still say the subsidy was not worth it, the poll shows that the level of approval for the public subsidy for Target Field has risen to 48 percent, up from 29 percent four years ago, before construction had started.
The results suggest that for much of the public, publicly-subsidized sports stadiums remain a divisive topic. The latest poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
"They [the Vikings] can play in South America for all I care," said Marlin Waldvogel, a retired railroad worker from Bemidji. "If they want to have a stadium, let them pay for their own. If I want to build a swimming pool, you think the taxpayers [should] pay for it?"
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the results mirror previous polls, and said any poll on the subject should ask "how important it is to retain the Vikings as a state asset."
The latest results, based on interviews conducted last week, were similar to the Minnesota Poll findings in 2006, just days before the Legislature allowed Hennepin County to increase a countywide sales tax to help pay for the majority of a new Twins stadium. In that poll, only a third of respondents said the Twins needed a new stadium to replace the Metrodome, where both the Twins and Vikings had played since 1982. About a quarter of those thought the Vikings needed a new stadium.
According to the new poll, women remain the biggest opponents to new stadiums. While 66 percent overall felt the Vikings should continue using the Metrodome, 72 percent of the women polled thought so. That's compared to 59 percent of men. While 75 percent oppose public subsidies for a new Vikings stadium, 79 percent of the women polled do not want subsidies.
Minnesotans earning $75,000 or more were among the biggest supporters of public subsidies for a new Vikings stadium, while those earning less than $30,000 were the strongest opponents.
While Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has sidestepped questions over whether he would move the team should it not get a stadium, the Vikings have said the team will not renew its Metrodome lease, which expires after the 2011 season.
Bagley noted that many of Minnesota's "tremendous assets," including light-rail transit and the Twins stadium, were unpopular with poll respondents prior to being built.
Bagley's views were supported by Twins President David St. Peter and Mike Opat, the Hennepin County commissioner who pushed for the controversial countywide sales tax hike to pay for the Twins stadium. All three said they were encouraged by the poll results on Target Field, even though fewer than half the respondents say the ballpark was worth the public expense.
"I think it is a little surprising the numbers aren't higher," said St. Peter. "[But] contrary to the poll results, we see the way the public has reacted to the building, which is off the charts. ... I'm more interested, frankly, in those results."
Opat agreed, saying the poll showed far more supporting the Twins stadium now than when it was being debated. "What [the results] reveal now is that people believe it's a fantastic facility and serves the state well, and I think they're right. Clearly, there was not this kind of support as we talked about building it," he said.
Jane Paige, a Montevideo resident who works for an electronics company, said she opposed spending public money for stadiums, especially in a difficult economy when the state's education system needed funding. "Minnesota was [once] ranked No. 2 in the country as far as education," she said. Now, Paige said, there are "so many cutbacks in education."
Paige said she had not attended a baseball game at Target Field. "You know why? she asked. "I can't afford it."
Christina Griese, an unemployed single mother living in Prior Lake, said she supported the new Twins stadium and the proposed Vikings stadium because both projects would help the economy and get "more people [to] spend."
But Griese said she had not yet been to Target Field. "As soon as I get on my feet," she said, " I'm sure we will make it."
Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673