ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A trifecta of major sporting events — the Ryder Cup, the Final Four and the biggest prize of all, a Super Bowl — are headed to Minnesota in coming years, all of them certain to shower the state with global attention and pull in tens of thousands of visitors.
But organizers of each have already begun exploring public help for their events, ranging from expanded tax exemptions to free logistical support. While organizers argue that the benefits of golf’s 2016 Ryder Cup, football’s 2018 Super Bowl and college basketball’s 2019 Final Four will be more than worth it, they’re being careful to shape prospective deals more as partnerships than public handouts.READ MORE: Next Weather Alert: Storms Likely Thursday In South-Central, Southeastern Minnesota
Lawmakers aren’t far removed from stadium subsidy fights for the Vikings and Twins, and could be approached soon for money to build an outdoor stadium for a not-yet-certain pro soccer franchise.
“The Legislature is suffering from professional sports fatigue,” said House Taxes Committee Chairman Greg Davids, who promised to give an airing to any sports tax proposals while warning: “I certainly won’t want to guarantee an outcome.”
A year ago, Gov. Mark Dayton and the four top legislators agreed in writing to help the Minnesota Super Bowl Committee follow through on a bid package that relies on some public assistance along with more than $30 million in private local investment. All those leaders are still in power.
The main item sought from lawmakers is an expansion of an event ticket sales tax exemption. A law still on the books from the 1992 Super Bowl shields game tickets from taxes. Organizers want it extended well outside the actual game to a special fan zone, special tailgating parties, the NFL Honors event and other connected events. There are estimates it would amount to a few million dollars in unassessed taxes.
Super Bowl Committee chief executive Maureen Bausch said the break pales in comparison to other taxes generated by the weeklong festivities.
“It’s going to generate so much in economic impact and so much in pure taxes for the city and the state,” she said. “The net is far more than what we’re asking for.”
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said the only thing lawmakers have definitely ruled out is exempting player salaries from taxes. But the NFL has that covered: They expect the host committee to raise private money to offset player income taxes.READ MORE: Nordstrom Workers In Minnetonka Accused Of Stealing $500K In High-End Merchandise, Selling Items Online
The contingent behind golf’s Ryder Cup said they haven’t made a “hard ask” for anything yet even as they start making the rounds.
Jeffrey Hintz, the PGA’s tournament director for the Ryder Cup, brought the event’s gleaming gold trophy this month to a meeting with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, and he earlier approached top state tourism and economic development officials. He told them that the event is expected to draw 250,000 spectators to Chaska’s Hazeltine National and will be shown on television in 160 countries and territories. If history is a guide, seven in 10 spectators will come from outside Minnesota.
The weeklong match between elite American and European teams is held on a U.S. golf course only once every four years. If all goes well, Minnesota could be in line for another top PGA tournament, like the tour championship Hazeltine hosted in 2002 and 2009.
Hintz said the tourney will need help with logistical resources from the state and cities near the course, primarily traffic management and security. Event coordinators hope the state tourism office will consider ad and marketing efforts tied to the Ryder Cup.
“We’re interested in partnering with the state to make sure there is an opportunity there so they can use this event as leverage to make the state shine,” Hintz said.
As for the Final Four, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said there are no plans to seek ticket tax exemptions like those pursued for the Super Bowl. Kelm-Helgen said officials could ask for cheaper, short-term licensing for buses, shuttles and commercial SUVs brought in from out of state to ferry people between hotels, the fan fest, concerts and the game during Final Four week.
Terms of the NFL’s Super Bowl bid package, obtained last year by the Star Tribune, seek waivers of licensing fees for up to 450 courtesy cars and shuttle buses.
Another mega-event could be on the horizon. Kelm-Helgen said the authority expects to decide in the next month whether it will bid for the 2020 college football championship game.MORE NEWS: Bow Wow Film Festival
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