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Support Building For Twins Stadium Vote
Associated Press - Yahoo! News

As the Twins continue to stun the baseball world with the team's on-the-field turnaround, it's looking like a bill helping the team build a new outdoor ballpark is on track for a nearly as surprising rebirth.

House speaker Steve Sviggum, a Kenyon Republican and ardent opponent to state involvement in building pro sports stadiums, admitted that it appears there are enough votes in his chamber to bring the dormant bill back to life, the Pioneer Press reported Friday morning.

The paper said Sviggum's comments were echoed by other GOP and DFL leaders.

The votes are simply to revive the bill after it was tabled in a House committee in mid April. Stadium supporters say to gather more support they plan on making the previous no-interest state loan carry a rate of 3 percent, and the tax-free zone declaration for the stadium could be repealed, WCCO 4 News reports.

The floor votes are needed to move the bill out of the House Local Government and Metropolitan Affairs Committee. Since the committee tabled the measure, supporters have hit the Twins radio and television broadcast booths urging fans to contact their legislators and political leaders to lobby for the bill.

Rep. Harry Mares, a White Bear Lake Republican, is championing the issue in the House and said within a week of the bill's tabling that he would work to revive it, saying the bill was far from dead.

That confidence, the Twins strong start and the effect of the lobbying plea have all combined to breathe life into a bill that seemed comatose during the winter and changed the stadium air in St. Paul.

The last Twins stadium effort four years ago failed miserably, but Sviggum told the Pioneer Press that current conditions have "brought out more support than four years ago."

Mares expects to seek a floor vote to send the bill to the House Tax Committee, chaired by Minnetonka Republican Ron Abrams, who said he'd give the bill a hearing. Abrams is on record opposing state involvement in building a new baseball stadium.

Earlier this week, Mares said that he has agreed to delay any action on the bill until next week as lawmakers work through the crunch of spending bills in preparation for near-certain conference committee work.

The proposal calls for a $300 million outdoor stadium to be built in an as-yet determined city. The Twins and private interests would pay one-half the up-front cost of the stadium, and use an interest-free state loan of $140 million from a surplus account and $10 million in sales-tax breaks for stadium materials.

It also calls for not releasing state money until baseball takes significant steps toward financial parity in the league.

Supporters say the deal provides even more private stadium financing than did the deal that got Xcel Energy Center built in St. Paul, which has been considered a strong success.

There are reports that Twins owner Carl Pohlad met with Gov. Jesse Ventura Wednesday regarding the stadium. Ventura ran against public money for a new Twins stadium, but his spokesman said he "had an open mind" about the issue when the session opened.

Friday, the Star Tribune published an editorial calling for the House to revive the bill, "… not as a sop to the Twins' stunning 19-7 start and not to save their own political hides, but because it offers a thoughtful, reasonable response to the people's desires to keep baseball while avoiding a windfall for wealthy owners and players."