by John A. Nagy
Don Beaver, the Hickory businessman who wants to bring Major League
Baseball to the Triad, will take his cause before the voters Tuesday without
an important element in place -- a signed purchase agreement for the Minnesota
Although Beaver and Twins owner Carl Pohlad agreed last October to a
tentative deal, it's never been completed, even though there was a March
31 deadline for finalizing the agreement.
That deadline, however, has turned out to be meaningless.
Still, Beaver remains optimistic that a deal is not far off, but baseball
insiders question Pohlad's intention to sell the team and move it to North
When Beaver signed the letter of intent to buy the Twins last Oct. 3
in Minneapolis, he expected to have a completed agreement before the May
5 vote in Guilford and Forsyth counties. Having such an agreement could
have lent greater credibility to the baseball campaign.
But the process has been slower than anticipated.
"The attorneys are still working on things," Beaver said last
week. "(The Twins) are still interested and we're still interested."
Beaver said issues such as tax implications from the team's sale have
bogged down negotiations. Also, the Minnesota attorney general and the
Minneapolis stadium authority have legal actions pending against the Twins
for threatening to leave town. And with the baseball season now underway,
team officials are also focused on day-to-day issues.
"We're going to get (an agreement) done when we can," Beaver
Beaver, Pohlad and their respective lieutenants have been meeting or
talking over the phone frequently, sometimes daily. Pohlad and Twins president
Jerry Bell flew into Greensboro early last month for the day to see the
Triad and meet with Beaver and his top aide, Tim Newman.
Neither side would comment on the nature of that meeting.
Some baseball insiders have said that no deal has been signed because
Pohlad, 82, remains reluctant to sell the team. Some in the Twins organization
have said Pohlad isn't sure whether he wants to go through with a move,
sell to another Minnesota group, become a partner with Beaver or go to
the Minnesota Legislature one more time.
If that is true, Pohlad isn't saying. He's turned down interview requests
and attempts to reach Bell for comment were unsuccessful.
Critics of the Triad baseball effort, both in North Carolina and Minnesota,
have maintained that Pohlad is simply using Beaver to get a publicly financed
ballpark in Minnesota. Beaver doesn't discount that Pohlad has leverage,
but he believes a deal ultimately will get done.
With the Triad baseball vote now just a day away, Beaver said he had
no idea of how a signed agreement with Pohlad might have influenced the
"There's no use to speculate," he said, "because we're
not going to have that."
Voters in Forsyth and Guilford counties on Tuesday will decide whether
to impose a 1 percent prepared-foods tax on all meals, food and beverages
served in restaurants and cafeterias in both counties, as well as a 50-cent
tax on all baseball tickets.
Tax proceeds would go toward construction and financing of a baseball
stadium. If the vote passes and Beaver is successful in buying the Twins,
he likely would move the team to Fort Mill, S.C., for two years while a
stadium is built in the Triad. Fort Mill is where Beaver's triple-A team,
the Charlotte Knights, play now.
A new stadium would cost about $210 million; $70 million would come
from Beaver's group and $140 million would come from the food and ticket
taxes. The prepared-foods tax would not be imposed unless, and until, Major
League Baseball awarded the Triad a team.
That fact alone is the key. A signed agreement between Beaver and Pohlad
is only as valid as the other Major League Baseball owners allow it to
be. They can overrule any sale, impose other conditions or persuade Pohlad
to sell to another bidder in Minneapolis.
It's been done before. When the owners of the San Francisco Giants threatened
to move to Tampa several years ago, the remaining baseball owners blocked
the move and forced the sale to another San Francisco ownership group.
A similar scenario could play out this time. In an interview last week
with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, interim Major League Baseball commissioner
Bud Selig remained cool toward the Triad.
"Even if a referendum passes there, it (a stadium) won't necessarily
be built there," he told the Star-Tribune. "That's a decision
the owners of the team have to make," along with the rest of baseball's
At least one owner -- Philadelphia Phillies owner Bill Giles -- favors
the Triad over Charlotte -- but said he doesn't think that matters.
"I'm still convinced (the Twins) are not going to move," he
told the Star-Tribune.
Baseball has not allowed a franchise to move in more than 25 years,
and there clearly are signs the owners are concerned about the Twins relocating
to the Triad. Some owners have said previously they are concerned about
the small size and untested nature of the Triad market. And they are bothered
by the two years the Twins would have to play in a renovated minor-league
ballpark south of Charlotte before moving into a permanent stadium.
But Beaver remains optimistic and says he's not heard anything he considers
discouraging from other owners.
"At the last owners' meeting, they said they were going to be watching
(the vote) with interest," he said. "Everything I heard from
most of the owners is that North Carolina is one of the best markets."
Jay Weiner of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune contributed to this report.