Monday, May 22, 2006

Arena Talk

The Good

Miami's new ice rink is coming along nicely and will be ready for next season. You can check out the progress here. The arena looks great, if not a little on the small side. I believe it's going to hold about 3500 people. If Miami continues being so successful in hockey, they could probably use a few more seats, but if they fill that building every night, it could be a very difficult place for other teams to play.

The Possibly Good

I can't find an online link, but there have been articles in the South Bend Tribune and Notre Dame Observer about Notre Dame looking into building themselves a new ice rink. Notre Dame is probably the one team out west that is most desperate for a new ice arena. They currently play in the Joyce Center, which was not built for hockey. A new arena, along with more of a commitment to the program from the school, could turn Notre Dame into a hockey power. Athletic Director Kevin White said he wanted a "boutique, high end" arena. Fill in your own blanks about what that means. I imagine French clothing.

The Not Good at All

The state of Minnesota passed their $1 billion bonding bill this past weekend, and money for a new events center in Duluth was not included.

The city of Duluth convincingly passed a referendum earlier this year which allowed for a local tax increase on restaurant bills to pay for their share of the new events center. The state of Minnesota didn't come through with their part of the money though.

A big reason they didn't get the money was because the legislature gave the money for a new Gopher football stadium. The Gophers needed a new football stadium, though it may not be a popular opinion among many who read here, a new Gopher football stadium is going to help Minnesota's economy more than the new arena in Duluth.

I think the state legislature made the wrong decision here. I've already made my feelings clear about why the Gopher's stadium plan is a poor one. There's also a bit of a double standard here. Governor Tim Pawlenty hid behind the law and forced Duluth to jump through the hoop of passing a referendum for a tax raise. Yet the Gophers didn't have to follow the same law and pass a referendum, mainly because most people knew it had no hope of passing.

It's also disappointing that Bemidji and Marshall got the money for new events centers while Duluth did not. I realize Duluth needed a lot more money than the other projects, but it also helps the state a lot more. An events center in Duluth brings in money-spending hockey fans from Wisconsin, and Colorado, and Alaska. An events center in Marshall brings in a bunch of Blue Bunny employees to watch D-list music acts.

All in all, the state of Minnesota really let the people of Duluth down. Bruce Ciskie plays the blame game and puts the majority of the blame on the DFL Party and Governor Tim Pawlenty. That sounds about right. The city of Duluth has loyally voted for the DFL for some time now, and they failed to secure a project the city really needed. Pawlenty tried to do everything he could so that Duluth didn't get their arena and Minnesota get their stadium, and when that didn't work, he made it happen anyway. It's a disappointing day for all hockey fans.


Anonymous said...

There been any mention on the progress of Yost's renovations, or am I gonna have to try and break in this week?

Chris said...

I didn't mention that both Yost and Lawson Ice Arena(home of Western Michigan) are getting renovations.

Yost's is relatively minor. They're just adding a real visitor's lockerroom in the south endzone. I was actually thinking about writing a story about it sometime this summer if I get around to it.

Mark said...

So which is it? One comment you said is that it's good economic sense, the other it's a bad choice for a Gopher football field. Didn't mention future plans for expansion, but just ripped on the 50k seat field. It's great that football is back on campus where it should be. Comment on that.

Chris said...

Minnesota needed a new football stadium, so in that sense, it was a good idea, but everything was handled very poorly.

If the plans are to expand the stadium, why not just build it that big to begin with? If the money is so important, why waste a ton of it by having to build twice?

The campus stadium is great, but they're spending an awful lot of money to build a stadium that still doesn't put them in the top half of the Big Ten in terms of stadia.

Anonymous said...

One never has to think very hard or look very far to come up with new reasons to hate the Gophers.

siouxnami said...

Really I can't say I am surprised by this. The DFL didn't fight for this the GOP would give anything to Duluth if it didn't have to. In Minnesota, there tends to be a backlog of projects and you have to get in line. Perhaps the best stadium proposal this year was for a new Vikings stadium, but they couldn't budge into line. I fully expect that this will be approved in the next cycle.

blockski said...

I can't post a comment on your other blog, so here goes: (re: Minnesota Football Stadium)

As Bruce noted, expansion is central to the design.

Also, it's very difficult to leverage moeny from the state and donors when you're aiming for a target that seemingly has no market. 50,000 is a smart play, especially with room allotted for expansion.

Furthermore, the Dome's biggest negative was a lack of atmosphere. A banged-out 50k joint is far more exciting than an almost half empty crowd of 50k in an 80k joint.

One more thing: You note how Minnesota's new stadium will be comparable to Northwestern's. You also say that it's pathetic for a Big Ten team. The thing is, Minnesota and Northwestern are the only Big Ten teams to play in major cities, meaning more options for where locals can spend their entertainment dollars.

50k, with room for expansion, is the smart play. Anything larger will carry too large of a price tag to actually get built. The most important thing is to get a stadium built and get the MN AD those revenues. Stadium renovations across the Big Ten have almost fully financed in-house, thanks to schools that control that revenue. Minnesota doesn't have that leverage because they don't control that revenue.

Chris said...

In my mind, building the 50k stadium is a pure waste of money. First off, you're throwing away a ton of money by building a 50k seat stadium and then wanting to expand it a few years later. It'd be a lot cheaper to just build a 80k seat stadium as opposed to having to expand, nevermind that construction costs will likely be much, much higher 5-10 years down the road.

Second, think about how much potential revenue the Gophers lose out on with those 30k seats they're not going to use. Regardless of the product on the field, there's going to be enough demand just because Gopher football is back on campus.

Think about the Wild. I know hockey is a little different than football in Minnesota, but for the most part in their history, the team hasn't been that great. But they consistently have great attendence figures because people want to go watch a game at the X and people are excited that NHL hockey is back in the Twin Cities.

The Gophers could probably sell 80,000 tickets their first couple seasons easily just because of the excitement about the stadium. That's a huge amount of revenue that they're throwing away.

Building a stadium on campus is definitely the right move for Minnesota. I just don't think building such a small stadium is going to be a good idea.

Bruce Ciskie said...


You're missing one major point.

As is, the state is forking over close to $1.35 million per Gopher home game over the next 25 years. That sure is a lot of money, and to increase that amount right now to add 30,000 seats that no one around here is convinced will be needed right away is a risk that could have killed the bill.

blockski said...

Bruce is right. An 80k stadium wasn't an option because there's no way they could sell that to the legislature: Why should they build something that big when they can't even fill the current stadium, nor could they fill the old brickhouse at the end of the 70s?

Construction costs are not guarateed to keep spiraling upwards as they have been in the past few years. Furthermore, the 'growth' of Gopher football attendance is anything but assured. This isn't like building a storm sewer system with excess capacity, it's a completely different issue where excess capacity isn't needed or even wanted at this time.

What you're also forgetting is that those last 30k seats are going to be the most expensive to add, in terms of marginal costs. It would be much more politically smart to add that capacity after building up demand. Selling out a smaller stadium and getting some buzz about having Gopher season tickets will provide a lot more momentum to get extra capacity.

The economics simply don't support anything larger than 50k at this time, either in terms of what the market has been for Gopher football, what the State will support for funding, or what the University can afford in terms of debt service without losing all of the financial benefits of having an on-campus stadium (which is the whole reason to build the thing in the first place).

80k is a nice emotional argument, but it's not based in any sort of reality.

redwing77 said...

Chris is right, but there are other factors:

First, off the biggest losers in the Gopher stadium bill is the Students. Not only do they have to pay the $25 per semester (I think) for the stadium, most of them won't be students when the stadium is done. Also, they have to play the tax for the Twins stadium (another needed but unworthy team owner). Then, surely, the student tickets to see a game in that stadium will of course be raised.

It's bad all around for the students. And this says nothing about the fact that a facility only barely factors into a recruit's decision process. A coach and coaching staff plays a bigger role and that's something Minnesota doesn't have bragging rights over. I still say they'll be a middle of the pack team 5 years after the stadium is completed and possibly beyond.