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Twins Sued -- By Landlord
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 been finalized.

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.