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Twins need a new stadium
by Sid Hartman

The reason I have been so adamant in advocating that the state legislature pass the Twins stadium bill, which includes a very generous offer from owner Carl Pohlad, is this: I am confident we will lose the Twins to contraction by 2003 if a new stadium isn't provided.

I recall being involved with people such as Charlie Johnson, John Cowles, Gerald Moore, Bill Boyer when we helped bring the Twins here from Washington D.C. for the 1961 season. That helped make this a major league area, and a new stadium is needed to keep it a major league area.

There won't be any more expansion in baseball. In fact, baseball is likely to subtract teams. The Twins might be one of the teams absorbed by Major League Baseball, and getting another team would then be impossible.

I'm confident Pohlad would never move the Twins. But the stadium bill stalled in the legislature was more than generous on his part. It includes a $150 million contribution from the Twins and the business community, and a $100 million interest-free state loan that Pohlad would guarantee. If that bill isn't revived, Pohlad would have no choice but to go along with contraction.

Opponents of the bill point out the loan is interest-free, but the bill's sponsors -- Sen. Dean Johnson (DFL-Willmar) and Rep. Harry Mares (R-White Bear Lake) -- have calculated the state would lose an average of $6 million per year should the team leave or fold. That doesn't include the cost of supporting the Metrodome, or the number of jobs lost.

Money picture Baseball has its financial problems. Teams in Tampa Bay, Miami, Montreal and Oakland are also candidates for contraction. The revenue sharing situation in baseball must improve. But baseball officials are convinced the players' association will go along with contraction if they add two or three more players to each team's 25-man major league roster.

As pointed out here before, the Twins will receive $20 million in revenue sharing and another $20 million in national TV income this year. They have a payroll of about $25 million, and would need a payroll of around $50 million to compete year in and year out.

Baseball could subtract four teams, getting $20 million or so each from the remaining 26 teams to pay for the buyout. The remaining teams would easily make that money back.

What's really sad is that insiders at the capitol say the Twins stadium bill was very reasonable but got tabled because of problems between the two political parties. The senate, and Majority Leader Roger Moe (DFL-Erskine), are in favor of the bill, with some minor changes. It's hard to believe the Democratic-controlled Senate can be in favor and the Republican-controlled House can have such a different view.

Fan support In the past few days, I have received more than 100 e-mails on the stadium issue. More than 90 percent favor the stadium, and many come from senior citizens who listen to Twins broadcasts or watch them on television.

House speaker Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon) admitted on WCCO Radio the other morning that e-mails are 2-1 in favor of passing the stadium bill.

As I have said many times, the Twin Cities would be a cold Omaha without major league baseball. The Minneapolis dateline that appears in daily newspapers all over the country will be gone from baseball pages. And the city will suffer without the 81 homes games the Twins play.

Members of the business community such as Wells Fargo executive Jim Campbell and U.S. Bancorp chairman John Murphy and others have spent a lot of money and a lot of time trying to convince legislators how critical this bill is to the future of baseball here.

Next year is an election year, and you know there's no chance the legislature will consider a new Twins stadium and a new Vikings stadium. I don't believe the Vikings would leave town, but rest assured owner Red McCombs will give it a try if there is no new stadium in the picture.

It's hard to understand how 18 other cities can build successful new baseball stadiums over the past decade, or how new football stadiums also are built, and this area still is opposed to the idea.