Friday, June 5, 2015
As I take my accustomed walks on the Mississippi River I frequently catch views of the taller portions of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium as it's being built. My walk coincidentally ends at a parking lot quite close to another football stadium, one built very recently for the University team, the Gophers. The new Vikings Stadium, costing just over a billion dollars, looks dramatic in a way that leaves me still struggling to tell what it's going to finally end up looking like. I found some final design pictures on the Internet and I'm pretty sure this stadium will be hideous, but it could be hideous with a sort of bizarrely appealing monstrosity, a loveable tragedy. They've been using one of the tallest cranes in the world to build it. For awhile it looked like it was all cranes. Now there's an awful lot more building there.
Most people I know are bitterly contemptuous of our spending such a massive amount of money for what amounts to about 24 hours of entertainment a year. It's a hard fact that the whole world is regularly used by the rich and powerful, but something like this stadium, right here in the center of our city, feels to people, I think, like a more personal kind of blackmail and usury.
And yet, it doesn't much get to me. We have a lot of money around here. It's not always going to be perfect when we're throwing it around so freely. I'm simply glad to see us buying stuff. And we are, after all, only paying for half of the stadium, so it's actually 500 million dollars we're on the tab for, not a billion.
For instance, we have here in the twin cities, Free Ice Cream July (we call it "fick" and it is eagerly anticipated by all but the lactose intolerant), where for the entire month of July all ice cream sold at stands, from ice cream trucks, and in stores is free to everyone. This certainly takes nearly as big a chunk out of our local budget as the stadium does, and the stadium is just a one time thing. We have Free Ice Cream July every year! Then there's this blog, very much a local product. I'm not getting rich here, but my fifty million dollar state arts board grant is just enough to keep it going. Sure, you say, that's worth it, and I agree, but if we start getting all uptight about a sprinkling of stadium money who knows where it could lead. We could lose this blog, or the "Picasso in Every Home" program, or the public free costume shops that are no doubt quite expensive, but that we completely take for granted. Imagine walking down the street around here and not seeing people dressed as leopards and princesses and Queen Victoria! Imagine not getting your seven free Craft Beer Tokens (good, curiously, for wine too) at the start of every month. Imagine not being able to grab a complimentary hover skateboard at every other street corner. Imagine libraries without public commercial kitchens, ceramic studios, printing presses, and fully equipped wood shops.
Can't happen, you say? Well, I don't know, but I'd rather not test it. So build your stadium, and when that's done get to work on that Frank Gehry designed Spaceport the state legislature just approved. I can take a little football so long as Minneapolis does not waver in its goal to put a human being on Mars by 2025. Spend spend spend!
What else is money for?