With the possibility of losing the Minnesota Twins looming ever larger, many
previously discarded stadium plans have found new life -- for now.
Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, said the state Revenue Department is
conducting an analysis of every possible stadium funding source. "You're
going to see a whole litany of plans," he said. "We're turning every
rock over for every user fee, local-option sales tax and the possibility of a
Since 1997, the Legislature has rejected every permutation of a stadium plan
that was presented to the lawmakers. Now Major League Baseball appears to be on
the verge of abolishing the team even as business and civic leaders grope for
ways to stop the departure.
Johnson will be among those appearing Thursday before the recently appointed
Tri-partisan Task Force on Stadium Issues. The panel is looking at ways to keep
the team in Minnesota, despite reports that other owners are prepared to pay
owner Carl Pohlad to fold his team.
Minneapolis Mayor-elect R.T. Rybak also expects to participate in that
meeting. He said the city will have a proposal, but he declined to divulge any
details. "This can't be done the old way because it's clear the majority of
the public is against the old way," Rybak said. He rejected suggestions
that the public and private sectors share the cost of a new ballpark equally.
St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman and Mayor-elect Randy Kelly say they intend to go
to the same panel with a plan for a $350 million ballpark in the capital city.
St. Paul would pay $150 million financed by a 3 percent downtown bar-restaurant
tax plus parking revenues. The Twins would be expected to contribute $150
million, and other private corporations $50 million.
"I'm not sure if anything can work. The only thing that can work is if a
local municipality steps up," Coleman said.
Kelly said the context has changed since Coleman first proffered the plan
earlier this year. "We are seriously confronted with the loss of this
public asset," Kelly said.
Also, Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St.
Paul, have renewed a push for community ownership of the team.
House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, has been an opponent of stadium
subsidies and called the recent reincarnation of many plans "back to the
future. ... "
"The only question is whether the public sentiment or leadership dynamic
has changed," he said. "That's going to have to play out a bit."
But Karla Blomberg, a member of the state panel, finds hope in the notion
that various forces are redoubling their efforts and resubmitting proposals.
"It's time for everybody to put their former bias aside and look at these
things with a clean, unjaundiced eye," said Blomberg, a Realtor from New
Last year, Blomberg was co-chairwoman of Citizens for Major League Baseball,
a panel convened by the Twins to find a way to keep the team here. "There's
been so many groups that really want to make this happen, it's strange that it
hasn't happened," she said.
Owners meet Tuesday
Even as the various options gasped for air again, the noose seems to be
tightening around the team's neck. Baseball's owners are scheduled to meet
Tuesday in Chicago for an update on eliminating teams.
The owners voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams for the 2002 season, and
although the teams were not named, they are believed to be the Twins and the
Montreal Expos. Commissioner Bud Selig wants the plans finalized by
mid-December, and it's possible he will formally announce the teams to be
Obstacles to the plan remain, including pending litigation in Minnesota that
could force the Twins to field a team next season to fulfill the final year of
the team's Metrodome lease.
The owners' actions and the outcome of the lawsuit will go a long way in
determining whether any of the resurrected stadium plans see real rejuvenation.
The Twins have asked the state Supreme Court for an expedited appeal of the
lower court's order.
"If the courts rule against us and Major League Baseball votes to
contract, we're only talking to ourselves. ... It's all over," Johnson
said, adding that he thinks taxpayers are more willing to help the team now.
House Taxes Chairman Ron Abrams, R-Minnetonka, disagreed, saying he had no
evidence of a legislative shift in favor of stadium subsidies.
"Those who have been in favor of it in the past are still in favor of
it. People who were opposed are still opposed," said Abrams, who added that
he remains in the "mushy middle."
What's more, Abrams said, voters are more worried about their employment,
their children's education and homeland security than the Twins.
Still, the proposal peddling isn't likely to stop until the final hour.
Coleman said his proposal makes sense because it doesn't require state money.
Rybak said he is conducting "shuttle diplomacy" to try to bring
people together. "I feel the public strongly wants the Twins here, but they
don't want it done in a way that requires the public to take the lead," he
Kelly said, "We have no choice but to attempt to move forward and keep
the Twins in Minnesota."
But because Minnesota has said no to every previous stadium plan, Carleton
College political scientist Steven Schier said he sensed it's too late to keep
"I think there's a real likelihood that Major League Baseball owners
want the Twin Cities to be the pelt on their wall," he said. "It will
be a summer of tractor pulls in the Metrodome."