Grassroots Support for the Xcel Energy Center Arena

Xcel Energy Center Website
The Opportunity
The East Metro Business community needed to show strong support for state funding to help construct a state of the art professional hockey and exhibition arena in Saint Paul. The project faced severe opposition in the legislature on political, ideological and economic grounds. Complicating matters, just six months prior to the start of the legislative session, the legislature had resoundingly rejected funding for a baseball stadium in a special session.

Seizing the opportunity

This challenge presented problems in both positioning and grassroots organizing. Ted Davis helped devise a strategy of positioning the arena as a multi-use facility that, along with hosting 35+ professional hockey games a year, would host a diversity of events throughout the year to serve a wide variety of audiences.

Using this positioning, Ted led a team of Chamber of Commerce volunteers and staff in creating a media relations and grassroots organizing campaign designed to leave no doubt in legislators’ minds that businesses from the Saint Paul area backed the proposal. The Chamber took the lead in developing a coalition of organized labor, youth sports activists, and supporters of community center projects throughout the state. Ted developed a grassroots communications system to keep coalition members informed and provide them with a way to contact key legislators at pivotal moments in the debate.

Ted also developed and implemented an aggressive media relations strategy designed to show legislators a deep and broad well of support for the arena proposal within the greater Saint Paul community.

The Results

After a very contentious debate, the Minnesota legislature authorized a $65 million loan to the City of Saint Paul to allow construction to go forward. More than 2,000 employees of Chamber member companies contacted elected officials on the issue during the session and delivered a unified message of support. The campaign effectively established the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and its officers as the primary news source on business issues in Minnesota’s capital city. During the debate, the Chamber and its position registered nearly 10 million impressions in the regional media as the lead business organization on the issue.