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Task force adopts recommendations for two stadiums
by Robert Whereatt

A stadium task force adopted recommendations Monday that urge Gov. Jesse Ventura and the Legislature to authorize building two stadiums, one for baseball and one for football.

On a 16-1 vote, the panel also recommended a laundry list of revenue sources to pay debt service on two facilities that could total as much as $800 million.

"I came in here never thinking I'd vote for two stadiums [but] it's doable," said Rep. Tom Osthoff, DFL-St. Paul, one of the task force members who voted for the report.

Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock, appointed to the task force by Ventura, also voted for the recommendations but said her boss will not be pleased with all of them.

"He will be very concerned with anything that affects the general fund," she said.

The task force recommends earmarking the income tax paid by visiting players, estimated at $1.5 million a year, for stadium debt. It also recommends a charge on all car rentals in the metropolitan area.

Wheelock said that money now goes to the state's general treasury, and Ventura has said that the general fund cannot be used for stadium financing.

"I hear all your arguments about general funds, but if a stadium isn't built you're going to lose all that income [tax from players' salaries]," said Will Haddeland of Edina, co-chairman of the task force.

The task force report, which finalizes the recommendation the panel made at its Jan. 15 meeting, states that private funding is preferred and that teams and the leagues would have to kick in a share, but in the end, it concludes that the state should share in the funding of two stadiums.

Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, a chief contributor to the report, said that the state's ultimate costs for two stadiums might be about $310 million, and that $31 million annually would service the debt.

"It's doable using the kinds of things we've talked about," he said, referring to the various taxes and charges.

The task force also recommended using gambling-related revenue for stadium financing. Although the wording is general, Wheelock said it provides various opportunities to find stadium funding.

Lester Bagley, lobbyist for the Vikings, said his organization is pleased with the report.

"They acknowledge that there's urgency for both football and baseball and that we can do both," he said.

Under the plan, the Vikings would share a stadium with the University of Minnesota football Gophers.

Twins President Jerry Bell said, "We would have to analyze it, but it's clearly a step in the right direction as far as we're concerned."

Under the task force formula, the Twins and other private interests would have to contribute half -- $150 million -- to a $300 million stadium. During the last legislative session, Twins owner Carl Pohlad offered to put $100 million toward a stadium.

Bell later said he was unsure if the offer still stood. He repeated that stance Monday.

The lone vote against the report was issued by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville. She said before casting her vote that she was unsure how much money would be available from the various recommended revenue sources.

The report now goes to the House, Senate and the governor. House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said Monday that there will be a stadium vote by the full House this session.