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T-Wolves, Wild owners team up

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad has agreed to sell his team to Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and Wild lead investor Robert Naegele Jr. for $120 million if a new stadium is built.

"It's been a great ride," Pohlad said Friday, recalling the 1987 and 1991 World Series championships during his 16 years as team owner. "This is a day of high emotion for me."

"We are very optimistic and very pleased that things worked out over in St. Paul," he said. However, he stressed that the sale doesn't become final until a stadium is built.

The deal faces several formidable obstacles, but Pohlad said he's optimistic that it will be accomplished.

St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman announced the proposed sale Thursday night and expressed gratitude to the Pohlad family. Coleman has sought the sale as part of a plan to build a new stadium along the city's riverfront and entice the Twins to leave Minneapolis.

Under the agreement, Pohlad would hand over control of the team to Taylor, owner of Minnesota's NBA team, and Naegele, managing partner of the NHL expansion Wild once the new stadium is assured. Until then, the team will be under dual stewardship, said Twins President Jerry Bell.

Plans for a new $325 million stadium, as now structured, are contingent on St. Paul voters approving a Nov. 2 referendum calling for a sales tax increase that would finance one-third of the facility.

Under Coleman's plan, the Twins would pay one-third and the state would be asked to pay for the other third of the outdoor park. The plan needs approval from the Legislature, where opposition is considerable. Gov. Jesse Ventura also opposes public funding of a new ballpark.

State Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, an opponent of taxpayer' funding of a new ballpark, said he doesn't think the deal will change many minds at the Legislature, although he acknowledged that lawmakers do have a great deal of respect for Taylor, a former state senate minority leader.

He said he still thinks the deal would be "dead on arrival" at the Legislature.

Other legislators agreed with Marty's stance. "Bob Naegele and Glen Taylor are fine people, but that isn't the issue," House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, said Thursday night.

Two years ago, after intense opposition from voters across the state that included 150,000 calls to state Capitol switchboards, the House voted 84-47 against a stadium-funding plan.

That plan relied almost entirely on user fees to pay for a ballpark and would have required little or no direct state spending. That proposal also had strong support from then-Gov. Arne Carlson.

"While the change of ownership is refreshing, I don't think it really changes the dynamic of the debate," said Pawlenty, who voted against the stadium bill in 1997.

Rep. Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, said Thursday: "The change of ownership has nothing to do with whether it passes at the Legislature. It won't pass at the Legislature because the public has spoken so overwhelmingly."

But state Sen. Randy Kelly, DFL-St. Paul, said that he might be more willing to approve state dollars for a stadium with Taylor among the new owners.

"Glen Taylor having served in the Legislature, having been a really good corporate citizen in Minnesota, having been a great owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves -- with all that, there is a reservoir of good will at the Legislature," Kelly said.

Major league baseball owners must approve any transfer, a process that usually takes six to 18 months. Pohlad said said team officials will have to present statistics showing that it's a good thing for Major League Baseball to approve the sale.

"They're not going to take our word on it," he said.

Pohlad had reportedly turned down at least two offers in the last two years, most recently one from Minneapolis attorney Clark Griffith, who said he offered between $110 million and $120 million for the club. Griffith is the son of Calvin Griffith, who sold the team to Pohlad in 1984 for $36 million.

Calvin Griffith brought the team from Washington, D.C., in 1961.