Commission Says Team Root Of Own Problems, Shouldn't Be Allowed
To Exercise Lease Escape Clause
MINNEAPOLIS, Posted 11:52 a.m. April 03, 1998 -- The owner of the Metrodome
-- the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), holder of the
Minnesota Twins lease -- is suing the team, arguing that it didn't legitimately
meet conditions allowing it to exercise an escape clause.
A retired judge, who acted as a non-binding mediator in the dispute,
sided with the Twins in a ruling last week, reports WCCO-Radio.
But that hasn't stopped MSFC attorneys from filing the suit in Hennepin
County District Court, a suit that uses many of the same arguments rejected
by former Hennepin County District Judge Robert E. Bowan in the mediation.
Under lease terms, the team could terminate its lease -- and pave the
way for a move to North Carolina -- if its attendance dropped below 80
percent of the American League average in the 1995-97 seasons, or if the
team lost money in each of those years.
The Twins claim they met the requirements and have exercised the escape
clause after owner Carl Pohlad agreed to sell the team to Don Beaver, who
hopes to move it to "the Triad" area of North Carolina.
There are many questions dogging that move -- including public support
in North Carolina for helping finance a new stadium -- and a sale hasn't
But commission attorneys say the team itself is to blame for low attendance
and operating losses. Those lawyers say the 1994 players' strike eroded
the team's fan base and high-profile threats to leave the Twin Cities unless
the team gets public money for a new ballpark soured attendance.
Bill Lester, executive director of the commission, said his agency is
pursuing the lawsuit because Bowen "didn't have the benefit of discovery
and backup materials" in making his judgment.
"It's our objective to keep the Twins in Minnesota and fulfill
our public obligation to do so," Lester said.