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Pohlad says Twins still need stadium
by Sid Hartman

Carl Pohlad said there was no talk of contraction when he attended a Major League Executive Committee meeting in Milwaukee earlier this month.

To his knowledge, there is no definite plan for contraction, though various media outlets have reported on contraction plans recently.

"Everybody is waiting for a new collective bargaining agreement," Pohlad said Thursday. "[The agreement] will dictate a lot of things."

The Twins have extended their Metrodome lease for next year. They had a deadline of Oct. 1 and wanted to wait until December to make the move because of possible contraction. But Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said they could not wait.

Pohlad can't talk about contraction or the collective bargaining agreement unless he wants to pay a $1 million fine.

In Milwaukee early this summer, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig gave me every indication that baseball would wait to see if the 2002 Legislature acted on a new stadium before deciding whether the Twins would be considered for contraction.

The word in baseball circles over the last month was Montreal and Florida would be possible candidates for contraction, but not Minnesota -- at least not this year, after the Twins drew 1.8 million fans.

One real indication something might happen to Florida is that Marlins President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski has been shopping for a new job. Tampa Bay would be a candidate, but the Devil Rays are having severe financial problems and baseball doesn't want to assume their debt.

Would have to accept Pohlad said if there isn't any hope for a stadium, he wouldn't have any choice but to be a part of contraction if that came about.

"That's what any sane guy would do," he said, pointing to the Twins' financial losses from the past 10 years. "The economics dictate it."

Pohlad said he wasn't surprised to read that his son, Jim, wants to remain in baseball.

"He wants to be involved, sure," Pohlad said. "The reason that I'm in baseball is because I always felt we had a chance to make it. In the last eight sessions of the Legislature, we've lost ground. In the last session, I couldn't believe they wouldn't take the deal that we offered."

Pohlad offered to pay 83 percent of the cost of a new stadium.

Pohlad said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed baseball's economic picture.

"You have to remember, the economic conditions have changed," he said. "Not only have they changed, but since September 11 they've changed drastically. Everything points toward a downturn in the economy. Can you imagine getting any public support for any sporting stadium?"

Big-market cities argue that baseball can afford to eliminate four franchises, buying them out with revenue-sharing money now given to teams such as the Twins, Montreal and Florida. The Twins received about $20 million last season.

Dave St. Peter, Twins senior vice president, said about 400 season tickets already have been sold for next year with little promotion. That news didn't excite Pohlad.

"That isn't the question," he said. "Even if you sell out, we don't have enough revenue. "We have the worst lease in baseball. We don't get anything from parking. We get a small percentage of the concessions. We don't get any box income. We don't have any club-seat incomes."

Pohlad repeated that the Twins will keep losing money without a new stadium.

"What do we have to sell?" he asked. "We don't have what Baltimore has to sell. We don't have what Denver has to sell. You have all these related things you have to put around the ballpark.

"I've sat here the last 10 years pouring money into the operation -- for the purpose of keeping baseball in Minnesota -- and we're in a time of recession now. I have obligations to my family, and I'm going to do what's right for my family."

No doubt there has been some talk of contraction. What will happen? I don't believe even Selig knows. The players association is going to have something to say about it.

One thing I'm sure of is, because of the respect baseball people have for Carl Pohlad, they will never force him out. They also like that the Twin Cities is the 14th-largest television market in the country. If Pohlad decides the Twins should be a part of contraction, it will be because Pohlad continues to lose money.

Here's a chance for Gov. Jesse Ventura to make a move and become a big hero by making sure major league baseball stays in Minnesota.