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Two-city battle for ballpark acknowledges Twins' plight

This is all very confusing. For several years the Twins ranted, threatened, issued ultimatums and stomped their feet while trying to get something going on the stadium front. Nothing happened. Then they cut their payroll to the bone and pretty much announced they were going to field a lousy team. They quit lobbying public officials. They took a vow of silence and made no public comments about a new ballpark.

Suddenly, TWO cities, St. Paul and Minneapolis, are in competition to try to build the Twins a new facility.

Is this a great country or what?

Let that be a lesson to all you kiddies out there. If you can't get what you need through hard work and determination, just give up. Things will work out.

What I hear is Minneapolis has 30 days to get its act together and make a proposal. Which I don't think it could do in 30 years. At that point, the Twins will grant St. Paul exclusivity until its voters go to the polls.

``It's pretty much the mayor's show,'' Twins President Jerry Bell said of St. Paul's Norm Coleman.

A new ballpark may never happen. There are so many obstacles. Although I think we could get some help from the state if we promise the governor a booth on the concourse so he could sell Jesse memorabilia.

But for the time being, at least, the people who toil for the Twins have a bit more bounce in their steps. I'm not talking about the big shots. But rather the regular folks who the sell tickets, recruit advertising and do the paperwork.

``This has been the best thing that's happened in a long time for people who work for the Twins,'' Bell said. ``People feel better. They feel wanted. It's been very uplifting.''

``People have been re-energized,'' said Dave St. Peter, vice president of corporate communications. ``It's been frustrating. A lot of folks here appreciate the efforts of Norm Coleman.''

I'm amazed the process has gotten this far. There actually appears to be a civil debate in progress. Cuckoos are not equating ballpark funding with the plight of the homeless. The city is acknowledging that baseball, as an industry, has major problems.

It's all so very . . . realistic. Ever since St. Paul got involved, there seems to have been a shift in public sentiment. Perhaps it's because everybody loves an underdog and that's how they characterize St. Paul in its efforts to land another major league team.

To be sure, there still are plenty of citizens who will scream ``no tax dollars'' whenever the subject is mentioned. However, the idea of some sort of public-private partnership is not being dismissed outright.

``It's an uphill struggle,'' Bell said. ``There's no question about that.''

Five years ago, no one thought the National Hockey League would come to downtown St. Paul. The Minnesota Wild have been met with a terrific response. Fans from both sides of the river are buying season tickets.

As St. Paul was grappling with arena funding, critics said families out in the western suburbs, with all that disposable income, wouldn't travel the extra miles into St. Paul for a sporting event. I've heard the same thing said about the Twins playing in St. Paul.

The two downtowns are 10 minutes apart. But even if those folks couldn't bring themselves to drive a few more minutes, their places would be taken by enthusiasts in the fast-growing southern suburbs, who would be that much closer.

Coleman is right when he says new ownership would create good will and further the ballpark cause. That may not be a problem. Carl Pohlad always has been willing to sell. The only obstacle might be the asking price.

Perhaps it will all fall into place. Perhaps it won't. I'm stunned we've made it to this point. So anything is possible.