MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The National Hockey League lockout is now in its 111th day, and a state lawmaker says the league should be held responsible for the economic impact of the lockout on local businesses.
Rep. Joe Atkins, a Democrat representing District 39B, says pro sports leagues should give back some of the public money they receive if they cause economic hardship.
“They promised economic activity. They promised job growth, and they are not keeping their end of the deal,” Atkins said.
One local restaurant suffering during the lockout is Eagle Street Grill, located close to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, which is the home of the Wild.
“It’s very challenging, it’s very hard, it’s emotional,” said Joe Kasel, one of the restaurant’s co-owners.
So far, the grill has lost half its yearly revenues and laid off three quarters of its staff.
“It’s tough,” said Kevin Geisen, the grill’s other owner. “You look at people who are doing a great job, who are excellent employees, and you have to look them in the face and send them home without a job.”
With the Wild locked out, the crowds don’t come; and state lawmakers say the lockout should never have happened.
The Minnesota Legislature spent $130 million to build the Excel Energy Center for the Wild. Atkins, the incoming chairman of the House Commerce Committee, says professional sports leagues should be held responsible for the economic impact of the lockout on local communities like St. Paul.
“I am deeply disappointed in the National Hockey League,” Atkins said. “They have enjoyed record revenues for the last five years in a row, and yet they have now engaged in their second work stoppage in the last decade.”
A new study estimates the lockout loss to the state is $5.9 million. That’s on top of St. Paul’s loss estimate of $9 million.
The longer the lockout, the more likely the rest of the hockey season will be canceled. It’s the worst possible scenario, but one the Eagle Street Grill is preparing for.
“You wake up every morning and you think to yourself, ‘OK, what am I going to fight today? What else am I going to have to go through and hurdle because of this lockout?’” Kasel said.
The House Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the economic impact of the lockout later this month.