I read with interest the June 20 article, “U.S. Bank Stadium activities sidelined at least until fall.” I believe that article is worth considering in light of the June 19 article regarding the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board allowing homeless encampments in certain city parks, as well as past experiences when severe winter cold impacted our homeless population.
It would seem that with U.S. Bank Stadium now expected to be empty at least through the early fall, and potentially longer, we could use that location to temporarily, but more efficiently and safely, house the homeless until the oft-stated but never realized “more permanent solution” is found.
While there will likely never be a perfect solution, this idea warrants consideration. Some of its advantages which I believe to be relevant are:
• A more centralized location close to existing infrastructure, such as HCMC, shelters and food resources, fire and police protection.
• A facility with more adequate restrooms, food storage and preparation equipment, parking space for any other necessary services (i.e. temporary showers, assuming the locker rooms are not utilized) and access to transportation, including light rail.
• A setting that would allow for more structured delivery of services and information (via large screen scoreboard and public address system) that could benefit the inhabitants by disseminating safety information, announcements, religious services, etc.
• The ability to plan, accommodate and react to changes in circumstances, weather, facility usage and need on a schedule that drives the “more permanent solution” desire on a more definitive timeline that could extend through the winter months if necessary.
• Efficient use of existing infrastructure otherwise left empty.
While it is comforting (I guess) to know that the Minnesota Sports Facilities Association (MSFA) will not incur a particularly large loss of revenue due to the magic of an April-March fiscal year and smoothing effects of looking at 2021 rebookings, the same cannot be said for the taxpayer, who partly funded the stadium construction, incurs higher local sales taxes and will see a significant loss of associated revenue from hotel, liquor and food sales due to canceled events or reduced attendance — and will incur the additional cost of the alternative tent cities as well.
The uncertain nature of the start of the NFL season should not preclude the use of U.S. Bank Stadium as a temporary shelter. At this point, we do not even know if a season will occur or what that may look like. However, it would almost certainly involve limited fan attendance. It seems that we have both TCF Bank Stadium (already up to NFL standards and used during the entire 2014 and 2015 Vikings regular season) and the newly built “state of the art” Vikings practice facility that could accommodate limited fans (likely up to 5,000 at most) as well as meet expectations for TV broadcast and NFL field requirements.
Perhaps we can be proactive in finding a more long-term solution to this never-ending issue by using the current situation as a temporary opportunity to leverage the abilities of all stakeholders, including the state, cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the MSFA, the Vikings and other long term owners, lease holders and, of course, the taxpayer.
Unless a better temporary solution exists, what I primarily see in opposition to this idea boils down to a case of “NIMBY” in one form or another.
Jerry Dittmann lives in Woodbury.