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the stadium could be repealed, WCCO 4 News reports.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
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