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Liquor company offers money toward new Twins stadium
by Rochelle Olson

A Minneapolis liquor dealer is setting aside a portion of his firm's profits to help build a new ballpark for the Minnesota Twins.

"This is an open offer to whoever gets a ballpark built," Dean Phillips, president of Phillips Products, said at a Thursday news conference.

The money, 5 percent of 2001 profits, will be held in escrow until a plan is in place to build a ballpark.

The total donation should amount to "hundreds of thousands" of dollars but won't reach $1 million, Phillips said. The privately held company sells various liquors, including vodka and schnapps, nationwide.

"I've got extraordinary memories of going to the old Met Stadium with my dad and grandpa," Phillips said. "I want future generations to have the same memories."

Phillips took out full-page advertisements in newspapers throughout the state today with the hope that other businesses might be encouraged to follow his lead. "My hope is that this whole thing lets other companies get off the fence," he said. "We're totally separated from the politics."

Phillips took no position on proposals under consideration but did say that he thought a stadium could be built without taxpayer money.

His family has a history of involvement with the Twins. His grandfather Jay Phillips helped persuade Calvin Griffith to move the team here from Washington, D.C., and the company favored the construction of the Metrodome.

"So this is round 3. It's almost a family obligation," he said.

Phillips said he notified Jim Pohlad of the Twins and Wells Fargo executive Jim Campbell of his plans in brief phone conversations. Campbell has been leading an effort by New Ballpark Inc. to raise private money for a stadium through sales of preferred stock.

"It's continued evidence that there is a heightened level of interest among business and civic leaders to get something done," New Ballpark spokesman Mark Oyaas said.

Twins President Jerry Bell said the donation is significant. "I think it's huge. It's a major commitment by a Minnesota company ... They just want to support baseball. It was a surprise to me, to tell the truth," Bell said.