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
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
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.