Reporting Bill Hudson
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) - The NHL lockout is now in its 90th day, and the canceled Wild home games have already cost St. Paul and surrounding businesses approximately $9 million.
State Representative Joe Atkins says it’s time to hold the league responsible for the economic impact the labor dispute is having on St. Paul – particularly in light of the deal that was made when state tax money was used to build the Wild its new home.
Atkins says a lot of tax money went into building the Xcel Center for a game that was supposed to add economic vitality, not take it away.
The streets around the Xcel Center should be filling with fans on a game day. Instead, it will be another Friday night without hockey.
“But nobody seems to be speaking up for the people that are really being hurt by this – and that’s the vendors, and the parking lot attendants, and the servers and the restaurant owners. They deserve a fair hearing too,” Atkins said.
They’ll soon get that voice when the chair of the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee will convene a hearing in January to discuss the lockout’s economic fallout.
In a letter to Mayor Chris Coleman, Rep. Atkins points to the building resentment among even the Wild’s most loyal fans.
Businesses around the Xcel Energy Center are feeling the pain. Pat Boemer of Patrick McGovern’s Pub fears that even when the NHL comes back – the number of fans will take a hit.
“Fans I think are getting a little discouraged,” Boemer said. “They gotta think about the fans because they keep this thing up – they’re gonna lose them.”
An added frustration is the taxpayer money spent to give the Wild a place to call home. Rep. Atkins says that deal included the promise of economic activity – not duress.
“We made a $130 million investment of tax dollars so that the Xcel could be built, so that the jobs that were promised would flow from that. Now they’re not keeping part of the deal,” Atkins said.
If the lockout isn’t settled soon, Atkins plans to hold the hearing during the third week of January.