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Stadium Bill Changed; Hearing Today
Associated Press

Legislative supporters of a bill calling for state support to build a new, open-air Twins stadium have morphed the proposal just as it is set to get a hearing in a key House committee.

The new financing plan is scheduled for a hearing in the House Tax Committee Friday, a week before the legislative session must adjourn. The hearing also comes after the plan was revived through parliamentary maneuvering after being tabled in committee in early April.

The changes come in the wake of what appears to be a shift in momentum toward passing the plan, as House speaker Steve Sviggum, staunchly opposed to any state involvement in building sports stadiums, hinted that he could support the plan with modifications.

One member of the committee said he expects to propose during the hearing to put the stadium question into a non-binding, statewide referendum.

The changes appear designed to appease opponents who said money in the fund the bill calls for tapping for an interest-free loan was already earmarked for other projects. Gov. Jesse Ventura, who campaigned against public aid for sports stadiums but seemed to soften his stance earlier this year, has publicly questioned creating a sales-tax-free zone around the new ballpark.

Under the revised plan, the state loan would be financed using state revenue bonds, rather than tapping excess cash in the state's Worker's Compensation Fund, and the tax-free zone would be revised or dropped, WCCO 4 News reported.

The tweaking also comes less than a week after the bill's chief House sponsor announced several other changes, among having the state loan -- backed by the team -- go directly to the city in which the stadium would be built rather than to the team.

There was also speculation that the Twins would be willing to pay interest on the loan, rather than the original sentiment of having the state provide the cash interest free.

While legislators prepare to debate the contentious issue, one Minneapolis business leader is pledging money to help the new stadium become a reality.

Minneapolis-based Phillips Beverage Co., which sells liquor in more than 20 states and Canada, announced Thursday it was poised to donate 5 percent of its Minnesota profits to the project. A company spokesman said that if other businesses followed suit, the stadium could quickly be financed.