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Golden Games Leaves Minneapolis in the Red

23 Sep, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
City Council Brings Up Idea of Conflict of Interest, with Sponsoring Organizations on Multiple Boards

According to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune,  the vice president of the Minneapolis City Council is raising concerns about the close ties between the convention and visitors bureau and a massive sporting event that hasn’t paid a $300,000 bill to the city.

The local nonprofit — Golden Games Minnesota — coordinated the National Senior Games in the Twin Cities. It owes the Minneapolis Convention Center $303,834 — extremely rare for a large event. The problem, says the City Council rep, is compounded by the fact that the Golden Games is also partly a creation of the city’s taxpayer-funded tourism bureau, whose mission includes supporting the city-owned event facility.

City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden recently wrote a letter to the city’s tourism bureau, Meet Minneapolis, about her concerns over shared board members and Meet Minneapolis’ connection to an entity that hasn’t paid the convention center.

“Clearly I’m concerned and we just have a responsibility to make sure we’re being engaged board members for an entity that is a nonprofit but receives the majority of its money from the public,” said Glidden, one of several city officials on the board of Meet Minneapolis. Golden Games Minnesota had difficulty raising the money it took to stage them.

The event’s leaders cited lackluster sponsorships and a lack of state aid, but said they are working to pay the Minneapolis bill, which came due Aug. 21. The city has not yet sent the bill to collections.

According to Hot Games, Golden Games was created with funding from Meet Minneapolis, as well as Bloomington and St. Paul’s convention and visitor bureaus, because a local organizing committee was a requirement for hosting the National Senior Games. Meet Minneapolis would not disclose the amount it paid, citing a trade secret provision in the state open records law. Golden Games was ultimately based in Meet Minneapolis’ downtown offices.

The perception of the conflict of interest, according to Glidden, comes about because the organization’s two volunteer co-chairs, Dave Mona and Susan Adams Loyd, are former and current board members of Meet Minneapolis, respectively. Mona is a longtime public relations executive and Loyd is president of Clear Channel Outdoor’s Twin Cities division.

The Golden Games board included Melvin Tennant, CEO of Meet Minneapolis, Bonnie Carlson, CEO of the Bloomington Convention & Visitors Bureau, as well as business leaders and executives from every local pro-sports team.

According to the article, the dilemma illustrates the tricky role local governments play in hosting conventions that boost the local economy and bring in significant sales tax revenue but are often made possible through complex incentive deals. Minneapolis spent $7.6 million subsidizing the operations of its convention center in 2013.

Minnesota’s state Senior Games were held May 28-31in St. Cloud. The 2015 National Senior Games were held in Bloomington, Minneapolis and St. Paul from  July 3-16. The next round of the Minnesota Senior Games in Minnesota will be held from May 19-21, 2016, according to the website.

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