Mar 27, 2023 - Sports

Minnesota lawmakers debate $50M bill for sporting events

U.S. Bank Stadium

Minneapolis hosted the NCAA Final Four in 2019. Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Twin Cities tourism officials have been trying to get WWE's WrestleMania to come to Minneapolis for years, but the local cost of hosting the annual spring event is close to $20 million.

What's happening: State lawmakers will consider whether taxpayers should help foot the bill for large sporting events. A bipartisan bill in the House would provide one-time funding of $50 million to Sports and Events Minnesota, the region’s sports commission.

State of play: The Twin Cities, thanks in large part to building new stadiums, has hosted the MLB All-Star Game, the Super Bowl, the Final Four and more over the past decade.

  • Sports and Events Minnesota has relied on corporate sponsorships to come up with money for event security, permitting, transportation and venue costs.

Yes, but: The organization's CEO Wendy Blackshaw said those corporate sponsors have become exhausted and can no longer keep paying for all the events. She said bidding for the next events will freeze in June without more money.

  • Blackshaw said other metro areas have public-private partnerships for this kind of thing. Indianapolis, which has a fund for sports events, has hosted four Final Fours since 2006 and will also host it in 2026 and 2029.

The wish list: Sports and Events is hoping to secure a major WWE event as well as the 2024 Olympic trials for USA Gymnastics and the 2026 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.

  • Longer term, it also wants to get a College Football Playoff Game, an NBA All-Star Game and a Big Ten football championship.
  • Blackshaw said these types of events have a 10:1 return on investment.

Between the lines: Both downtowns could use the hotel bookings and dining reservations.

Yes, but: Some sports economists say visitor spending estimates are wildly inflated, and Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville) said he was concerned with the $50 million price tag.

What's ahead: Committees in both chambers have set the proposal aside for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.


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