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Campbell says he can direct $50 million to Twins ballpark
by Rochelle Olson

The principal organizer of an effort to build a ballpark funded primarily by private sources for the Minnesota Twins estimates they could contribute about $50 million toward the stadium's cost.

Jim Campbell, chairman of Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota, and a leader of New Ballpark Inc., offered the estimate in a letter sent last week to key state legislators, including Rep. Harry Mares, R-White Bear Lake, sponsor of a bill to provide the Twins with a $140 million, interest-free loan to help them build a $300 million stadium.

Campbell's group, which includes several local business leaders, hopes to build a smaller, downtown ballpark, probably in Minneapolis.

The state effort appears stalled in this session of the Legislature, but city officials said the private fund-raising drive will continue.

"We haven't proven yet that the private sector can't put the deal together," said Minneapolis Planning Director Chuck Ballentine, who has been heavily involved in talks.

New Ballpark Inc. has been testing for months the concept of raising private money for a ballpark, possibly through a preferred stock offering.

Campbell said $50 million was his "best guess" of what New Ballpark could raise. "We did think it was important for you to hear directly from us about the results of our work," he wrote to Mares.

Mark Oyaas, New Ballpark's public affairs consultant, said the preferred stock plan could generate the $50 million contribution and that the group planned to explore other options for the balance of the stadium's cost.

In fact, a $50 million contribution would actually require that New Ballpark raise $130 million from investors.

The remaining $80 million would be invested in corporate securities to generate enough income to repay investors with interest,Oyaas said.

The group's working model assumed that the Twins would contribute $125 million toward a ballpark, and the city recently designated a site behind the Target Center as the preferred site.

Legislative plans

State aid for the Twins still awaits action in the Senate Taxes Committee, but appears dead in the House, where a committee tabled discussion of the bill last week. In addition to the loan, the Twins and private sources would put up an additional $150 million and get $10 million in sales tax exemptions for the ballpark.

The Twins have continued working to build support for the loan plan and have passed out cards at home games, summarizing the stadium-funding proposal and asking fans if they want to get involved, according to Dave St. Peter, a Twins spokesman.

Fans who return the cards will be contacted and asked to call or write their legislators to voice support, he said.

Some fans apparently are responding. A receptionist on the fourth floor of the State Office Building, where House members have their offices, said Tuesday that she fielded more than 200 telephone calls Monday and through mid-morning Tuesday, mostly supporting the stadium bill.

Mares blamed House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, for not using his power to move the bill to a vote on the House floor.

Sviggum said he does not oppose the bill, but repeated, "I'm not going to let it dominate the session."

St. Paul's ballpark point man, RiverCentre director Erich Mische, said his city's proposal remains viable. The plan advanced by St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman would build a stadium near the Xcel Energy Center. It would be funded with parking revenues from city ramps and a downtown tax on sales in bars and restaurants. But Mische said any St. Paul deal would only move forward if it's part of an overall partnership with the Twins.

The team, he said Tuesday, must jointly develop a stadium plan along with city officials, as the Minnesota Wild did before the $130 million Xcel Energy Center was built with state help.

"We're prepared to sit down with somebody if they want to have a discussion about a business deal," Mische said. "We're not interested at this point in being brought into a political debate because this isn't about a pol itical solution."