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Minneapolis, now it's your turn
by Tom Powers

It took the Milwaukee Brewers almost a decade to get approval for a new ballpark. There were threats, failed referendums, rivers of tears and even a confrontation with the Forked Aster, which is a weed on Wisconsin's threatened species list.

A clump of Forked Asters was discovered at one of the potential construction sites and temporarily caused a few hearts to palpitate. Could an endangered Northern Spotted Owl be far behind?

Yet the Brewers kept plodding ahead. Eventually, public opinion swung in their favor, and their perseverance was rewarded.

St. Paul voters had their say Tuesday, rejecting the half-percent sales tax increase that would have helped build a ballpark. That came as no surprise. The result wasn't a resounding ``Get lost!'' but more of a polite ``No thanks.''

Regardless, St. Paul won't be asked again. The focus now returns to Minneapolis, which is where the final great battle is to take place.

Stung by the recent defection of several major businesses, the Minneapolis political leadership, such as it is, will make another attempt at finding a funding mechanism for a ballpark. It has been a poorly kept secret that decision-makers in that city had been rooting hard for the failure of the St. Paul referendum -- just so they could have another chance.

The fact the St. Paul vote was closer than some expected should buoy Minneapolis' efforts. A significant number among the large turnout were in favor of the ballpark. Had it been a rout against, it might have resulted in some skittishness across the river.

Minneapolis still has a frightening path to traverse. The same groups that worked against the ballpark in St. Paul are driving west on Interstate 94 as we speak, their faces flushed with victory.

To make matters worse, elected officials in Minneapolis already are starting to feel the heat to keep the Vikings.

Vikings owner Red McCombs is unencumbered by the guilt a local owner might feel when moving a team out of state. He ain't from here, son. And business is business. Eventually, McCombs will have to be accommodated. So there is a double problem.

With St. Paul's rejection, ownership of the Twins reverts to Carl Pohlad who, like the proverbial bad penny, keeps turning up. If he senses momentum for the ballpark in Minneapolis, he won't be so easy to dislodge.

Pohlad, who suffered the public humiliation of agreeing to sell the team in an effort to sway St. Paul voters, probably still could peddle the Twins to local interests, but not for price he wants. He won't bite on the low-ball offers he is sure to receive.

Pohlad is determined to get back every nickel he says he has put into the club. That means there won't be a fire sale in which the team is sold for $80 million.

If he could outlast Red McCombs -- a high-stakes game of chicken, if you will -- he would be assured of a glorious new stadium. It could come down to which team packs up and leaves first. After one team leaves, a general panic will set in, and the remaining club will be coddled.

You can just hear the public outcry: ``We can't lose two professional teams!''

The Vikings are in a better position. They're hot right now, although public opinion can turn on a dime. Another playoff debacle, always a possibility, could hurt the Vikings' standing in the community.

There was a time when the Twins overshadowed the football team. Their string of successes from the late '80s to the early '90s made them No. 1 in the hearts of Minnesota sports fans.

In 1988, the Twins became the first American League team to draw 3 million fans in a season. It was quite a love affair.

Area baseball fans looking for hope need only to gaze across the border. When you consider all the trouble and rejection the Brewers went through only to still come up with the OK for Miller Park . . . well, if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.