Two lawmakers presented a ``no new taxes'' baseball stadium plan today that
calls for a publicly owned $300 million open-air ballpark for the Minnesota
Twins, putting the issue back on the Legislature's agenda this session.
The plan sponsored by Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, and Rep. Harry Mares,
R-White Bear Lake, would require economic reform by Major League Baseball
for the 42,000-seat stadium to go forward.
``The funds will come largely from initial investment by the Twins and other
private sources, loan repayment by the Twins, and a narrowly drawn
sales-tax-free zone at the ballpark,'' Johnson said.
The level of public involvement is much less than the Twins would prefer but
this might be a plan the public could embrace, he said.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe stressed the need for fundamental reform in
the economics of Major League Baseball.
``Minnesota struggles under a tremendous disadvantage because Major League
Baseball caters to the mega-market teams,'' Moe said. ``Unless baseball
cleans up its act with some kind of genuine revenue-sharing, the deal will
be null and void.''
The legislation, which will be heard in a Senate committee Thursday, calls
for an impartial three-judge panel to determine if Major League Baseball has
accomplished the necessary reforms to benefit smaller-market teams.
Johnson has talked in recent weeks of a plan that would have cities compete
to be the team's home. A neutral entity would select the winner based on who
puts together the best siting and amenities package.
The rationale is that it would take jurisdictional partisanship out of the
equation at the Capitol.
But opposition to stadium bills at the Legislature has run much deeper than
parochialism. In short, lawmakers have been unwilling to use state money
toward a new ballpark.
The Johnson-Mares bill calls for:
- $150 million initial investment by the Twins and other private sources.
- $100 million interest-free loan from the state, with full repayment within
20 years guaranteed by team owners.
- $40 million revenue bond serviced by the Minnesota Wild dedicated loan
- $10 million in construction materials would get a sales-tax exemption.
The proposal would be the first in the legislative hopper, but it is far
from the only idea being floated.
Last week, St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman outlined his pitch to lure the Twins
to that city with a plan featuring a $125 million city contribution, $150
million from the Twins and another $25 million from private contributors.
He also said no public money would be used to fund a stadium in St. Paul
unless Major League Baseball makes ``substantial and credible reforms,''
including revenue sharing.
At least two other groups are putting together stadium plans, including the
New Ballpark Inc. panel composed of influential Twin Cities businessmen. The
group is considering the feasibility of building a privately financed
For their part, Twins officials have been meeting with state leaders to
discuss a plan that would require a contribution from team owner Carl
Pohlad, an interest-free state loan and site preparation and infrastructure
from the host city. That, too, would be contingent on changes to baseball's