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Minnesota's stadium backers concede defeat

ST. PAUL (AP) -- It's all over but the packing, defeated supporters of a new Minnesota Twins stadium said Friday.

Gov. Arne Carlson said Twins owner Carl Pohlad told him he will proceed with negotiations to sell the team to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver.

"He's deeply saddened," Carlson said. "He's bewildered. But he indicated he had no choice but to move the team from Minnesota."

Pohlad issued what seemed to be a more measured response.

"The Minnesota Twins have been an important part of my life, and that of my family, for 14 years. My dream was that they remain competitive and in Minnesota. It appears that may not be possible," the statement read.

The lawmakers who put together the ballpark financing package that suffered an 84-47 rejection in the Minnesota House on Thursday night said they had no plans to revive their efforts.

"I'm going home," said Rep. Loren Jennings. "My wife's looking for me, my kids don't know me and last night the dog bit me when I came home."

Senate leaders briefly considered passing a financing bill Friday to keep the issue alive, but abandoned the idea when it became clear senators had little interest in prolonging a debate that began two years ago.

"It's time to stop," said Sen. Mark Ourada. "It's time to go home."

"We feel a sense of loss," Carlson said in an emotional news conference. He called the stadium special session two weeks ago. It ended Friday.

Invoking the names of former Twins stars Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett, Carlson predicted Minnesota will have to wait many years before major league baseball returns.

"We'll tell our children and their children what it was like to have baseball," he said. "We feel sad, we are sad."

But the grieving was tempered by a slim ray of hope.

Pohlad's letter of intent to sell the team to Beaver gives the Legislature until November 30 to approve stadium funding, providing a two-week window of opportunity.

Although Carlson said he had no plans to call another special session, he indicated he would do so if enough opponents agreed beforehand to vote for a plan.

"Obviously I would call them back," Carlson said. "The initiative and responsibility rests with them."

It would take a massive change of public opinion after the way stadium opponents clogged Capitol phone lines and jammed legislators' mailboxes in recent days.

Supporters say there's a chance of a tide change if the public realizes the rejected stadium package relied on user fees, including a surcharge on player salaries, ticket and parking taxes, and taxes on items sold in the new ballpark.

Sen. Dean Johnson said he began hearing from constituents before heading home Friday morning.

"My phone messages and e-mail were absolutely overwhelming, saying, 'You can't let this happen,''' he said.

Even stadium subsidy opponents agree the debate isn't over.

Many don't believe Pohlad will complete his deal with Beaver, or that the baseball owners will allow the move to a smaller North Carolina market.