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House Waves Ballpark Around Third
Chamber OKs Ballpark Bill That Calls For Local Referendum
Compiled by editor Parker Hodges

After six years of frustration and disappointment at the hands of political and economic realities, the Twins late Monday are the closest they have been in recent years to getting state assistance at building a new ballpark.

The state House, which has had among the staunchest opponents to any state aid for the ballpark, gave the OK Monday afternoon to a bill outlining state support for a new stadium.

The state Senate has already passed a ballpark plan, but that was before Gov. Jesse Ventura tossed out his administration's plan that quickly advanced through the House.

The 80-52 vote now means that conferees from the Senate and House will meet to discuss the differences in the two bills and try to forge a compromise acceptable to Ventura.

Ventura's plan spurred the quick action in the House. The bill calls for the Twins to put $165 million up front into an interest bearing account and for the state to sell revenue bonds using the its strong credit rating.

The money from the interest difference between what the Twins fund money earns and an annual $10 million payment from the team and the ballpark's host city will be used to repay the state bonds.

It was widely anticipated that the host city would levy restaurant, bar, hotel and other hospitality taxes to make that $10 million annual payment. Under the House plan, any new taxes levied by the city where the ballpark would be built would have to get the OK of city voters in a referendum.

Once the 30-year notes are ready for retirement, the original $165 million would pay off the bonds.

Only cities, as opposed to counties, can make bids for the ballpark. This, together with the inclusion of the referendum process, has most political observers saying the plan favors St. Paul in the site selection process.

Minneapolis voters put in place a $10 million total outlay that the city can make without getting voter OK in a referendum, and had been looking to team with Hennepin County to finance the city portion of the ballpark.

Meanwhile, St. Paul has no such restriction and has developed a tax plan similar to what is outlined in the House bill. The city is in the process of whittling down potential stadium sites.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Monday that a recent poll shows 60 percent of voters in the capital city said they would support a referendum to lure the Twins stadium across the river.

A 1999 stadium referendum, which called for city financial support for a Twins ballpark that was supported by then-Mayor Norm Coleman, failed in St. Paul.

Minneapolis, meanwhile, has selected a site behind the Target Center it contends is ideal for a ballpark. Massive city-owned parking ramps are nearby, as is the skyway. The LRT line under construction is slated to stop at the ballpark door, and existing sewer and water lines are available.

Minneapolis, St. Paul and at least one suburb have expressed interest in housing the stadium. A site selection committee of state leaders would pick the host city by July 1 after reviewing bids and hearing the recommendation of a panel of legislative leaders.