The current and future mayors of St. Paul said Wednesday they plan to propose a
downtown ballpark for the Minnesota Twins that would be paid for partly through
a 3 percent sales tax charged to bars and restaurants throughout the city.
St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman and Mayor-elect Randy Kelly said they'll present
the proposal to a new state stadium task force a week from today. The men
portrayed the plan as a chance to keep the Twins from being bought out and
closed down by Major League Baseball owners.
For Coleman, the ballpark proposal is his third effort to bring the Twins to
St. Paul. In 1999, city voters defeated a half-percent across-the-board sales
tax increase by a 16 percent margin. Earlier this year, Coleman briefly floated
a financing proposal similar to the one he and Kelly plan to further detail next
week. A new stadium in St. Paul would not solve all the economic problems of the
Twins, Coleman said. But without a new ballpark, the team would not survive long
enough to benefit from any eventual restructuring of the baseball industry, he
One of three potential downtown St. Paul stadium sites is diagonally across
West Seventh Street from the Xcel Energy Center hockey arena. The other sites
are across the Mississippi River from downtown, and in Lowertown near the
Kelly pointed out that Minneapolis officials face a $10 million limit on city
spending for a ballpark, making a ballpark effort more difficult there. "A
lot of people are looking to St. Paul for a possible solution," he said.
Coleman and Kelly said their proposal would require the Twins or other
private sources to contribute half the cost of a $325 million to $350 million
The state or the Metropolitan Council would borrow the remaining money
through the sale of bonds, Coleman said. Then the city would repay the bonds
from the proposed 3 percent tax on bar and restaurant sales, and receipts from
city parking lots during games.
Coleman said he didn't know how much money either revenue source would
produce, but he would obtain estimates by next week.
Neither did he know whether any stadium plan would persuade baseball owners,
who voted Nov. 6 to fold two baseball franchises, to keep the Twins in
"I don't know if it's wasted energy," Coleman said.
Twins President Jerry Bell said Wednesday he met with St. Paul leaders
recently but did not learn a lot about the proposal. "If they send it to
us, we'll look at it," he said.
Coleman's 1999 stadium proposal was dependent on the departure of Twins owner
Carl Pohlad, because Coleman believed the Twins owner's fading popularity would
burden the ballpark campaign. Pohlad agreed to sell the team to Glen Taylor,
principal owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Robert Naegele Jr., lead
owner of the Minnesota Wild. The new proposal might not require an ownership
change, Kelly said.
Coleman said the latest proposal probably would have to be approved by
voters. Kelly did not commit to putting the measure on the ballot. Both men said
the proposal probably would be contingent on baseball owners improving the
long-term business prospects of small- and medium-market teams through increased
revenue sharing and perhaps a salary cap.
As of Wednesday, neither Kelly nor Coleman had presented their proposal to
council members, other than Chris Coleman, who represents the downtown area. In
interviews, three council members expressed reservations about the proposal.
"We didn't want to raise taxes to fully fund libraries or fix rec center
roofs," council member Kathy Lantry said. "Why should we raise taxes
for a ball stadium?" However, Lantry said she might feel differently if
baseball instituted economic reforms.
Council member Jerry Blakey said a downtown ballpark would be great, but he
won't support public money for it without Major League Baseball reforms.
Council member Jim Reiter said he needed more details but was against a
similar pitch earlier this year.
Chris Coleman said voters should decide whether the city should support a new
"We gave them a chance to take a look at this a couple of years ago, and
they said no," he said. "But a couple of things have changed since
that vote. One is the success of the Wild, and the other is that it's pretty
clear that if nothing is done, the Twins are gone."
Council President Don Bostrom was sympathetic. "This is a chance to say,
"Don't let the Twins leave town without the chance for the city of St. Paul
to talk about this.' "