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Twins owner pledges $111 million to stadium

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad would contribute $111 million cash toward a new baseball stadium, he said today in his first public appearance at the Capitol this year before key lawmakers. Pohlad said that would bring his contribution to the baseball team to $220 million, a number that includes operating losses since he bought the team in 1984.

"That's a heckuva a lot of money. That's a heckuva a lot of money to put into a baseball team," he said.

The amount was the same number recommended by a legislative task force, which also said the state should come up with $250 million.

But Twins president Jerry Bell said the team wanted no user fees or ticket taxes. Those proposals have been the most palatable to lawmakers trying to find a way for the state to help build a ballpark.

"Clearly it affects the ability to contribute up front," Bell said.

The plan would be contingent on the team selling 22,000 season tickets by opening day in 2002 and 10,000 in 1998, Bell said.

In his short statement, Pohlad also spoke from the heart about the team and the World Series wins in 1987 and 1991.

"It is ironic that baseball brought us all together back then and has divided us now," he said.

Pohlad's long-awaited appearance came at the request of legislative leaders who sent him a letter Thursday asking that he speak at a special meeting of the House Rules and Senate Tax committees to discuss the $400 million-plus retractable roof ballpark.

His appearance came on the second day of a special session on the stadium. Lawmakers are expected to take votes, possibly as soon as Tuesday, on the state's contribution.

Pohlad has signed a pact with a North Carolina group that would send the team to that state if lawmakers refuse to help build a stadium by Nov. 30.