Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and leaders of the Hennepin County
Board told Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad on Wednesday that they have
formed a partnership to develop a ballpark finance plan they said won't
require state money.
The public officials didn't disclose firm details of the unfinished
plan, but one of the funding options under consideration is a countywide
sales tax, City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes said. Cherryhomes,
Sayles Belton, County Board Chairman Randy Johnson and County Board Vice
Chairman Peter McLaughlin insisted that no final decisions have been made
about how to pay for a Mississippi riverfront ballpark.
The mayor also said that the city-county plan probably wouldn't require
the approval of Minneapolis voters. A previous vote limited city funding
for a sports facility to $10 million.
The Minneapolis-Hennepin County effort comes in the wake of St. Paul
Mayor Norm Coleman's campaign to build the Twins a stadium in St. Paul.
Earlier Wednesday, just hours before hearing Sayles-Belton's plea to keep
the Twins in Minneapolis, Pohlad, two of his sons and Twins president Jerry
Bell joined Coleman on a guided tour of potential downtown St. Paul ballpark
"It's a little better feeling than a couple of years ago,"
said Bell, who has been Pohlad's stadium point man for five years, living
through endless proposals, failed finance plans and legislative defeats.
Sayles Belton said the message her delegation gave Pohlad was that "we
are quite serious together to keep professional sports -- baseball, in
particular -- in downtown Minneapolis, the downtown of the metropolitan
area. . . . It's the best business location for baseball."
McLaughlin also emphasized that the county-city plan will try not to
rely on state money. Coleman's emerging finance plan is assumed to require
a state contribution of about $100 million. "Any deal is more difficult
if it involves a discussion with the Legislature," Cherryhomes said.
As for Pohlad's reaction to the sudden show of affection, Bell said,
"I can't answer anything until I know the details." Pohlad declined
Erich Mische, Coleman's top aide, said: "The world hasn't changed
today." Coleman will have a public meeting on his ballpark plans next
Thursday and may schedule a city referendum for November.
In both cities, the finance plans remain amorphous. Coleman has been
trying to patch together enough city and team money to support a proposed
$330 million open-air ballpark. A citywide sales tax or a downtown liquor
and restaurant tax have been discussed.
The Hennepin County-Minneapolis partnership allows for "a broader
[tax] base," McLaughlin said. Two years ago, Sayles Belton proposed
a seven-county metro sales tax to fund a ballpark and mass-transit improvements.
As part of that plan, the riverfront site, which is largely owned by the
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the county, would have been donated
to the stadium project.
Sayles Belton's ballpark vision has been fairly consistent: She wants
a stadium on the Mississippi riverfront near the Stone Arch Bridge, the
Milwaukee Depot and a growing residential area. "A ballpark has to
be a part of a community that's working 24 hours a day. We're building
that neighborhood right now."
In November 1997, Minneapolis voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum
that limited city funding for pro sports facilities to $10 million. Under
the terms of that referendum, if the city plans to spend more than $10
million, it must go back to the voters. Sayles Belton said, "We don't
think at this time" that a city referendum would be required under
the still-developing plan. But asked if that meant the city's piece would
be less than $10 million, she said, "We're not sure yet."
More details on the Hennepin County-Minneapolis plan are expected next
week. Cherryhomes said a broad resolution supporting the new partnership
probably will be presented Friday to the City Council. "We're definitely
back in there," Cherryhomes said, a fact noticed by St. Paul stadium
Said St. Paul City Council Member Chris Coleman: "The only thing
that would have surprised me would have been if Minneapolis hadn't made
an attempt to put something together. Certainly, it's clear that they want
to do something, but basically St. Paul has put the issue back on the table."