The New Vikings Stadium Is a Broken Window Metaphor Come to Life

Vandalism at the Minnesota Vikings new stadium turned the $1.1 billion glass structure into a hulking metaphor about the folly of publicly-funded ballparks.


Brian Peterson/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Friday's grand opening of U.S. Bank Stadium, the $1.1 billion new home of the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings, was marred by a bit of vandalism. The façade of the new stadium was damaged last week when a vandal tossed a rock through one of the hundreds of glass panels that cover every inch of the stadium's exterior.

The result: a hole big enough for a small human to crawl through, according to the Minneapolis Star-TribuneThe 10-foot-by-five-foot exterior glass panel was smashed, though an interior panel did not break.

The newspaper said stadium security suspect the rock responsible for the damage was part of a "pile of decorative rock" located adjacent to the stadium's north side.

You have to wonder about the wisdom of leaving "piles of decorative rock" next to billion-dollar rendition of a Jawa sandcrawler covered in glass. It makes a very inviting target if you find it pleasant to break something from time to time, or if you're frustrated by the expense of the publicly funded stadium and want to make Austrian economic parables come to life.

That's because U.S. Bank Stadium, like many of today's taxpayer-funded professional playgrounds, is itself a giant testament to the enduring power of the broken windows fallacy.

Minnesota taxpayers fronted $348 million for the stadium, thanks to legislation signed in 2012 by Gov. Mark Dayton. The same bill required Minneapolis to fund an additional $150 million for the stadium, which the city did by increasing hospitality taxes.

Like the broken window in Bastiat's parable—which points out that economic activity redirected from one "unseen" purpose to another "seen" one, as in when a broken window is repeaired, does not produce a net positive in economic activity—new stadiums don't generate new economic activity, they merely redirect it.

In other words: What could have been done with those millions of dollars had they remained in the hands of Minnesota families and businesses? We'll never know.

But we do know that the stadium is unlikely to generate net economic benefits for the Twin Cities.

"Sports facilities attract neither tourists nor new industry," concluded economists Andrew Zimbalist and Roger G. Noll at the Brookings Institute in a report published nearly two decades ago, as cities across the country were embarking on a stadium-building binge. "A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment." 

At the end of the 2010 season, the average public bill for the 121 professional sports stadiums in the United States was $259 million, according to research from the University of Michigan. The same study found that taxpayers lost $31 billion in net economic costs for stadium construction. 

A 2012 analysis by Bloomberg found that taxpayers were on the hook for more than $4 billion in bond payments for professional sports stadiums built since 1996.  

Yet local governments keep committing big bucks to stadium projects.

In Hartford, Connecticut, local officials have blown through $63 million on a publicly financed stadium and still don't have anything to show for it. In Cobb County, Georgia, county officials had to raise taxes to keep public parks open after spending $400 million on a new stadium for baseball's Atlanta Braves

The list goes on and on. And on

Incredibly, the Vikings say it will take up to two months to replace the damaged window at U.S Bank Stadium, since all the glass panels were custom-made.  There's no word on how much those massive, custom-made glass panels will cost to replace, but they probably won't be cheap.

Just add that to the tab. Taxpayers in Minnesota are already paying for $16 million in cost overruns (though the Vikings have generously offered to cover $4 million worth) at U.S. Bank Stadium.

At least the glaziers will have work.

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  1. the rock responsible for the damage was part of a “pile of decorative rock”

    So, the glass resulting from the damage is part of a “pile of decorative glass”. Problem solved.

    1. Am I the only one thinking we need common sense decorative rock legislation?

      1. At least create the Decorative Rock Security Administration. Think of the JOBS!

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    2. Where is my hat tip? I reported on this last week. I even broke the news about it taking two months to replace.

  2. For something that has less of a chance of killing you than a lightning strike it sure seems to be killing a lot of people.


    Every. Fucking. Day.

    1. Vatican has condemned the ‘barbaric’ killing of the 86-year-old priest

      “Must. Resist. Urge. To. CRUSADE ….”

    2. Search for lightning strike news. You’ll feel better.

      So let’s run the numbers. You’ve made the scope world-wide, so we’ll work off that basis. There’s about 7.5 billion humans in the world. Let’s say that Every Fucking Day, there’s 50 people killed by your dreaded Mooslims. 50×365/7.5B = 2.4 out of a million. If you limit the scope to the US (where it’s nothing close to Every Fucking Day), the chances are even smaller.

      You can stop shitting your pants now.

      1. 2.4 out of a million

        Just to be clear, that’s on a per-year basis.

      2. Muslims have agency.

        Lightning does not.

        1. Arbitrary wavefunctions have non-sequiturs.

          Say, have you ever gotten together with Bra Ket?

          1. Unless we find an operator, we’ll just end up being one. No offense to Bra Ket, but I usually expect dinner first.

            The point was that lightning and human action are materially different and it’s not irrational to treat them as such, regardless of death tolls.

      3. I don’t think I’m in the slightest danger of being killed by a terrorist, but it’s still a trend worth looking at that will have an effect on modern politics, especially in Europe where the attacks are.

      4. If terrorism is like lightning, then France and Germany are making their citizens stand in big open fields with lightning rods on their heads to avoid the appearance of lightningphobia

      5. 50? Why are you just running the numbers on white people killed?

        1. cause white lives matter?

      6. I’m not sure about the pants-shitting, but people certainly find the number large enough to disapprove of. And while we’re at it, why don’t you play your numbers game and give us the number that’s acceptable. You know, how many dead children, pregnant women and old priests per day, +1, before we can disapprove, without risking another of your condescending math lessons, I mean.

        How many, before we can consider such deaths as side effects of Islam failing to adjust to 21st century Western culture? You have a limit there, somewhere? Anywhere?

        Lightning and terroristic killings are not usefully comparable, but Merkel’s immigration non-policy is the equivalent, safety-wise, of enforcing a law that all citizens must carry a 3-iron aloft during thunderstorms. Might not result in a LOT of deaths, but they could rightly be considered unnecessary.

    3. Wow we had the same comment cadence.

      Anyway, I saw this and got really pissed off. I grew up Catholic but don’t worship much anymore. This still really hit a nerve.

      1. It’s difficult to fully abscond from Catholicism.

    4. Maybe I’m just a pants-shitter, but it really seems like there’s a full-court press of improvised terrorist activity in France and Germany right now. What is the goal?

      1. What is the goal?

        To make you shit your pants for no logical reason.

        1. *hand waives*

          Just the Jr. Varsity team.

      2. The conquest of Europe. There is historical precedence for this. Also, it is what many of them are openly saying.

        1. Email me your address, I’ll send you some extra toilet paper.

          1. I have plenty, but thank you. I buy the giant packs at Sam’s.

            1. I always feel odd buying giant packs of TP. I worry that people think I have IBS or Crohn’s.

              1. Just tell them you’re sending it to Venezuela

                1. And get arrested for smuggling?!? No thank you!

              2. Why would you feel odd about buying a product they’re selling?

                Now, buying 6 giant packs of TP you start to look like a prepper.

        2. Calculating the risk of terrorism misses the point. It also misses how most people perceive the issue. Right now there’s some here trying to be the lone voices of Reason saying it’s not that big of a deal. And when we look at the things we normally accept as reasonable risk, it’s not.

          But there’s no real mainstream political movement with this attitude. Even in Europe, the authorities are simultaneously importing Muslims and then using the threat posed by terrorism to crack down on civil rights. Even the most basic such as free speech. The open borders types don’t mind strong government responses to terrorism as long as they have the pretext of tolerance and they can import more Muslims to create diversity.

          So this isn’t really a situation where there’s a pro-freedom side to pick. You are going to get shit on your hands no matter which way. And there really are only two broad paths or solutions in mainstream politics. Both here in America and in Europe.

    5. The French should drop a nuke on Raqqa.

  3. You have to wonder about the wisdom of leaving “piles of decorative rock” next to billion-dollar rendition of a Jawa sandcrawler covered in glass.

    Just. Fucking. Stupid.

    1. I don’t understand why they didn’t use tempered glass. Or put a metal screen in front. Dumb!

      1. Sad!

        1. That article is media bias in a nutshell.

          Government is covering almost all the cost of the stupid stadium, but somehow THIS ONE THING is the team’s fault and not government’s fault.

        2. What if, say, I feel threatened by birds?

      2. Even better, directives from the Decorative Rock Security Administration offices requiring the use of Raux?, a “green” recycled rocklike product that won’t break glass. It’s expensive, but uses 15% recycled waste. Even more better, I’m pretty sure Hillary’s got the CEO’s phone number (it was on one of his checks).

    2. I wasn’t wondering about the wisdom of it at all.

    3. I’ve seen dumber design flaws. Like architects removing concrete sidewalk that has been diverting water away from the sub-basement walls for the last 30 years because it interfered with their landscaping ideas.

      Of course, the tenants had slight problems with the foot of water that subsequently showed up in their server rooms during a northeaster.

    4. Utiniii! I have a friend who is quite short and cosplays as a Jawa. I need to start a kickstarter or gofundme to send her to a Vikings’ game in full Jawa outfit.

    5. It isn’t a pile of decorative rocks. More like they created a landscaped border around the stadium. This border is a bed of softball sized basalt rocks.

      It is way stupider than a pile of rocks. A pile makes you think that a guy might have to wander a few yards to get a rock. Nope. All around the stadium there is a bed of these rocks that is about the width of a sidewalk.

      Thank god that they weren’t playing there last year. Blair Walsh’s missed chip shot FG to win the game against Seattle would probably have resulted in us needing a brand new stadium.

  4. It was probably just a drunken Bears fan.

    1. Np Bear can throw that accurately. Now on either side of the MN/WI border you will find Packer fans and Viking fans living on the “wrong side.” Some are even married to each other.

  5. They can replace it with the revenues they get from electronic pull-tabs. 😉

    1. No one even talks about those e-pull tabs anymore. Complete memory hole.

      The whole sales job when they rammed this through was that all the money would come from those and no general funds would be needed.

  6. Oh, Zygi, will you ever win?

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  20. Opportunity cost, how does it work?

  21. hundreds of glass panels that cover every inch of the stadium’s exterior.

    Not true.

  22. Edmonton taxpayers are getting fucked to the tune of $500M+ (depends on what you count as a cost attributable to the hockey arena) so a billionaire carpet-bagger team owner who lives in Vancouver can go from being a drugstore owner to land baron. Voters not only failed to punish city council for giving away the money, they voted for the former in-the-bag mayor’s hand-picked successor rather than the alderman whose platform was explicitly ”no public funding for the arena.”
    $500M would be a lot of money on a national level. It’s still a lot of money on the provincial level. But on a municipal level it’s outrageous.

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  24. The top line in the linked article about Bastiat’s paradox is this:

    This article is about the economic parable. For the criminological theory, see Broken windows theory.

    I’ll bet most people seeing the “broken windows” phrase in this article’s title thought it was referring to the latter.

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