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Task force hears call for Ebbets Field-type stadium for Twins
by Mark Brunswick with The Associated Press

A St. Paul legislator and a Twin Cities businessman are proposing that an urban baseball stadium modeled after the storied Ebbets Field in Brooklyn be built to keep the Minnesota Twins in the state.

The plan, called the Ebbets Field Village District, would incorporate affordable and market-rate housing, shops and eateries, and a private management company to oversee the district and make it profitable.

Rep. Andy Dawkins, DFL-St. Paul, and business consultant Mike Adamovich made the pitch Thursday.

They presented their idea at a meeting of a tripartisan stadium task force, which has been meeting to make recommendations on stadiums for the Twins, Vikings and University of Minnesota football Gophers. The task force hopes to make its recommendations to the 2002 Legislature, which convenes Jan. 29.

The latest proposal would be to build a replica of Ebbets Field, once the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the site where the color barrier was broken in Major League Baseball when Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the majors in 1947.

'Friendly confines'

The new 30,000-seat stadium, which Dawkins said could be built for less than $300 million, would be the focal point of an urban village similar to "the friendly confines" surrounding Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The district would be chartered by the state and operated as a development company, with profits from it paid out to private investors, the state and the Twins. The Twins could make money by sharing year-round revenue streams from small businesses in the district, parking revenues and an ownership share in any media deals.

Dawkins said he has even spoken to new St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly about two possible locations: the Lower Flats area across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Paul and Lexington and University Avs. in the Midway area. Dawkins said sites in Minneapolis could be considered as well.

But like many stadium concepts that have been floated (another speaker proposed a casino, a football and a baseball stadium and a Muppets amusement park to be built in Eagan), the Ebbets Field plan may find itself in an uphill battle. Front-office representatives of the Twins attending Thursday's hearing had not heard of the idea before, and its supporters acknowledged they had no designs and no concrete financing in place.

Earlier in the day, another state legislator proposed stadiums for both the Twins and the Vikings without using public financing. Rep. Tony Kielkucki, R-Lester Prairie, would extract a $450 million fee from a private gambling company in exchange for a license to operate two casinos in the Twin Cities area for 30 years. He said his plan would also provide as much as $75 million a year from a 10 percent tax on casino receipts. The plan, however, requires voters to amend the state Constitution to allow private operation of casinos. The existing 18 casinos in Minnesota are run by American Indian tribes, as permitted under federal law.

While much of the talk was on business, with discussions of team elimination and revenue streams, the day also brought out emotions for some speakers. Greg Hawkinson, who drove to the St. Paul hearing from Mankato to offer what he said was a "blue collar" perspective, spoke about the importance of baseball as a national treasure and its relation to family values.

"I'm not here because baseball is the most important thing in my life," he said, holding up a picture of his children and getting tearful. "I'm here because my children and their children and future generations are the most important. I'm hoping we can continue to cherish my grandparents' love affair with this wonderful game."