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Twins president endorses Ventura's stadium plan
by Robert Whereatt

A stadium-funding plan proposed last week by Gov. Jesse Ventura was endorsed Tuesday by Twins President Jerry Bell, and the chief House sponsor of a stadium bill said he plans to scrap his plan and adopt much of the governor's.

``The more we have checked this, the more it looks like Lsomething we can work with,'' Bell said, adding that, in some ways, it is the best funding plan he has seen. ``At least it gives us the revenue we try to achieve in a new ballpark."

Under Ventura's plan, the state would fund a $330 million stadium by selling taxable revenue bonds at an estimated 6.5 percent.

The Twins would be required to provide $165 million as a nonreturnable gift that would be invested. Income from that amount would earn an estimated 8.5 percent interest, generating about one-half the annual interest payments on the bonds.

The Twins would be responsible for an additional $10 million a year to service the total debt, estimated at $21.5 million a year during the 30 years of the bonds.

Bell said the team would need help -- a ``city partner,'' he called it -- to service the debt or come up with part of the initial $165-million gift.

``I think the form it takes would be subject to the negotiations with the city when you sign the lease,'' he said.

St. Paul and Hennepin County leaders have testified that they are willing to raise more than $15 million annually to try to win a new stadium in their jurisdiction.

The proposed sources have ranged from car rental surcharges to downtown or citywide taxes on liquor, restaurant food, hotels and entertainment.

The House bill, sponsored Rep. Harry Mares, R-White Bear Lake, calls for $25 million a year on statewide newspaper and magazine subscription sales and local taxes on bar and restaurant food.

On Tuesday, Mares said he intends to amend his bill ``along the lines of the governor's proposal'' when it is heard today in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Mares said he wants to be sure that bonds can be sold at 6.5 percent interest and that they can generate an average of 8.5 percent annually. That is central to the governor's plan: borrowing at a lower-than-conventional rate and earning enough to pay most of the debt service and accumulate enough to pay off the principal at the end of 30 years.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said he expects the full House to vote on the Mares stadium bill Friday.