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Minneapolis Ballpark Battle Begins
By Eric Jansen
June 10,1999
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With St. Paul at the forefront of a new push for a baseball stadium, Minneapolis is racing to catch up. But some call the mayor's plan to team up with Hennepin County to keep the Twins in town a foolhardy reaction to St. Paul's plan. Others say the city must do what it can to keep the baseball team in Minneapolis.

Renewed efforts to keep the Minnesota Twins from leaving Minneapolis don't sit well with city council member Lisa McDonald. She says St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman has drawn Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and other city leaders into a poker game in which the one sure winner is the team. McDonald says despite protests to the contrary, it's evident the two cities began competing once Coleman started pushing for a ballpark in St. Paul a few weeks ago.

McDonald:He's a clever guy. He basically has set the scenario, and we are responding. Instead of being on the offense, we're on the defensive, to use a sports metaphor so to speak.

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McDonald says numerous studies show professional sports facilities usually cost cities more than the cities receive in return. She says the city has many other priorities, like a new library and funding neighborhood improvements.

Minneapolis council president Jackie Cherryhomes, who's been working on the ballpark plan with Mayor Sayles Belton, says if Minneapolis doesn't act, it could lose the Twins to St. Paul.
Cherryhomes: I'm elected to keep businesses in Minneapolis and keep our civic assets strong. Professional sports is a civic asset. We need to keep it in Minneapolis, and we need to have a plan that does that that's responsible, and that benefits our taxpayers.
But Cherryhomes says the city hasn't entered a bidding war for the team, and that recent discussions with the Twins owners are not a reaction to Coleman.
Cherryhomes: We've been working and talking about this for quite some time. Were we out tooting our horns prematurely? Absolutely not. Did we wait until we had something to talk about? Yes.
Cherryhomes says if St. Paul gets the team, Minneapolis residents will help foot the bill, because St. Paul's plan requires the state to chip in about $100 million. Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials say, at this point, they don't anticipate needing help from the state.

Governor Ventura isn't inclined to chip in. During his campaign, he opposed public subsidies for a new ballpark. The governor now says he's ready to listen to any stadium proposals that involve the state. But he says Major League Baseball executives are not improving an economic structure that divides teams into haves and have-nots.
Ventura: They're doing nothing to encourage any type of revenue sharing. All we get is lip service from Commissioner Selig who tells you, "Build stadiums. Build stadiums." I find it very interesting there was a protest the other day on affordable housing, yet a stadium is put on the front burner.
St. Paul, meanwhile, still awaits a commitment from the Twins. The Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce has pledged to help lead a campaign to get businesses and residents involved in a Saint Paul ballpark plan. But chamber president Larry Dowell says before mounting such a campaign, the city needs the Twins to agree to focus their ballpark effort on Saint Paul exclusively.
Dowell: If the Twins make a commitment that they would see Saint Paul as their home, yeah, we would proceed on a public process, I hope.
For the moment, at least, Twins officials are discussing options with leaders from both cities.

Minneapolis' proposal limits the city's contribution to $10 million, a ceiling many council members say is unrealistic. The resolution doesn't detail financing plans, but author Paul Ostrow says raising sales tax by one-half percent is one option under consideration. Ostrow says Minneapolis must make its intentions clear .
Ostrow: There's a real question out there about whether or not the city is even interested in keeping the Twins. I think clearly, as the vote will turn out, it'll be shown - yes - the city of Minneapolis is still interested. There's a need to make that affirmative statement.