Carl Pohlad – 2007 Suckubus of the Year

Watch out! He's gonna get you with his suckubus claw!!(Yes, I spelled ‘succubus’ with a ‘k’ on purpose, for comic effect)

First off, since this is the first TIWILM yearend award ever, we’ll retroactively give Pohlad the Suckubus of the Year title every year all the way back to 1995 when I first realized that he was going to dupe my city out of nearly 400 million dollars. Actually, back in 1995 it was only going to be 300 million, and we were going to get a retractable dome stadium for that tidy sum, but inflation and even stupider politicians have managed to get us less for more. Also, it took 10 years for Pohlad to learn how to parallel park his P.R. Spin Bus without touching the taxpayer curb and lure all the county commissioners down to his evil scientist lab where he shoved hoses up their nostrils and sucked 50 IQ points out of their brains.

Here’s the ugly truth: the new stadium will cost an estimated 522 million dollars. Since no stadium has been built at or under budget since Roman times, let’s call it 600 million by the time the last screw is turned and the final Port-O-John bill is paid. Rounding up and adjusting for going over budget, about 400 million of this sum will ultimately come from Hennepin County courtesy of a new 0.15% sales tax. That’s an awful lot of money just to make one rich old man even richer.

But wait, this stadium is going to benefit all of us right? Increased downtown revenue, higher profile sports scene, more satisfied fans… Hold on, that’s the brainwashing script that Pohlad’s stooges have been whispering into our ears as we sleep. After 10 years of that insufferable osmosis repetition, he’s succeeded in confusing and/or re-programming enough people to get his stadium built.

Let’s boil this down to simple terms, then expose the absurdity of it all and finally explore a few ways for us innocent bystanders to recoup our money…

Big Lie Number 1: The new stadium will actually make money for the city because it’ll bring more fans to the games. Fans spend money, money will go to local businesses, successful local businesses are good, so we should stop bitching and wait for the dough to start rolling.

Actual Fact: Even the most gullible halfwit can tell you that an open air stadium in Minneapolis will probably result in a long term decrease in fan attendance. Sure there’ll be an initial surge, while fans come to gawk and check it out, but once that period expires we’ll be back to the exact same problems we had 25 years ago at the Met Stadium. I was only 12 years old when we made the miraculous move from the Met to the Dome. Everyone was so excited. No more sitting out in the freezing cold, pouring rain, choking heat and providing free catering for a mosquito feeding frenzy. “F*ck you, unpredictable, often insufferable Minnesota weather!” we cried. “You can’t have your way with us anymore! We’re going to the Dome, suckaaaahh!!” The TV showed flashback images of fans at the Met over the years, beet red from sun exposure, soaked like rats in a driving rain, huddling under blankets which were in turn covered in two inches of snow and we thought we were so smart. Why didn’t they show that footage before the county commissioners voted for this colossal waste of cash?

Big Lie Number 2: This flashy stadium will show everyone that we’re serious about our sports. Players will be more inclined to sign with the Twins and, since they’re making all this revenue from the new stadium, the Twins will have more money with which to woo better players.

Actual Fact: Apparently it was all a smoke screen. According to a recent Daily Mole Top Civic Villains of 2007 piece, where they also trashed Pohlad, “Only a few years ago, amid a run of Twins division titles and higher-than-customary payrolls, there were those cynics and paranoiacs who swore that once the Twins got their stadium, they would stop spending even to this new, minimally competitive level. Lo and behold: Torii’s gone, Johan is going, and the chance to build a Central Division powerhouse around the nucleus of Mauer, Morneau, and Santana is already history; the Tigers have seen to that.” Even the prettiest stadium on the prettiest day isn’t going to draw local or out-of-town baseball fans to watch a team suck that kind of ass.

Big Lie Number 3: With the sparkling new, state of the art (for the moment), more intimate stadium, fans will simply go to pieces at the spectacle of it all and will be more likely to buy season tickets, rent those VIP boxes and spontaneously attend games with the family on Saturday afternoons like good Americans.

Actual Fact: As stated above, when Saturday afternoon rolls around and these good Americans, that have grown so fond of their hermetically sealed lives and threaten to sue whenever they sustain more than seven consecutive minutes of discomfort, take one look at the weather and see the forecast for rain/snow/heat/locusts they’re gonna say “f*ck that” and watch the game in their living room, on their 60 inch plasma high definition TVs, sitting on couches, eating hotdogs that didn’t cost $5, drinking non-watery beer that didn’t cost $8 and peeing in their clean bathrooms. Who wouldn’t? People suffered through games at the Met 25 years ago because it was the best way to see baseball. These days, even the most intimate stadium seat won’t hold a candle to a close-up, slow-mo, instant replay, professionally produced drama at 1,080 lines of resolution. Every time a game is played in inclement weather, eight out of 10 fans are going to have this epiphany and never return to the stadium (in poor weather) again. Goodbye promised downtown revenue stream.

So in the face of a probable long term money-losing, white elephant scenario like this why would Pohlad, obviously a shrewd businessman, spend over a decade trying to wrestle this disaster into reality? Well, why not?

Worst case scenario he makes several hundred million dollars over the course of a decade until everyone finally admits the new outdoor stadium was folly and we break ground on a new dome on the site of the old dome.

Best case scenario Pohlad makes several hundred million dollars over the course of a decade until everyone finally admits the new outdoor stadium was folly and taxpayers are coerced into coughing up the lion’s share of the money to retro-fit the outdoor stadium with a retractable roof because it’ll increase downtown revenue, give us a higher profile sports scene and bring in more satisfied fans. Sound familiar?

It’s win-win and since he’s investing no significant personal money, it’s no risk. The guy’s a bloody genius, really.

I’ve been publicly ranting against this stadium since the mid-90s when I was just starting to realize that I wanted to be a writer and something like getting my letter printed in City Pages was grounds for updating my resume. Furthermore, for the purposes of full disclosure, I’ll freely admit that I’m not a fan of baseball. It’s a pansy sport, with too little action and too much spitting and idle genital fondling. That said, even if this were a professional Thai massage stadium, I’d be equally pissed off about the county being pick pocketed by a billionaire, so the point is moot.

Now I’m no accountant, but after quick calculations I’ve estimated that the average Hennepin County shopper is going to contribute about $150 a year for the next three years with this sales tax scam. Considering that 90% of these ‘investors’ will never set foot in that stadium, how is a hard working, baseball hating, vengeance aficionado supposed to recoup their $450 contribution to Pohlad’s retirement fund? Well, here’s a few suggestions that you didn’t hear from me:

• Leverage the free advertising option – Glue/spray paint/chisel an ad for your business on the stadium’s limestone façade.
• Help oneself to stadium swag – Take home flat panel TVs from VIP suites, computers from the business offices and snack food from the press room.
• Trick Carl into giving you a present – I know some people who sent a wedding invitation to Carl’s office. They weren’t in the rolodex, so no one mentioned it to Carl and since the secretary wouldn’t dream of bothering Carl with such mundane details she just sent the couple a very nice lamp. With the magic of laser printers and false identities, you could probably get away with this con a couple times a year and since Carl is giving you the gift, it ain’t stealing.

So there you have it. Once again rich people with delusions of entitlement take whatever they want and we commoners are a little bit poorer and screwed like a cheap cork. Could someone please remind me why socialism is bad again?

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Rants | 28.12.2007 23:37 | 5 Comments

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