In the Spotlight

News & Features
By William Wilcoxen
August 4, 1999
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As part of their new agreement with Saint Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad and his sons have agreed to sell the baseball team to new owners, provided a new ballpark is built in Saint Paul. Some city officials hope taking Pohlad out of the picture will make it easier to rally public support for subsidizing a new stadium. But some Minnesotans say an ownership change would make little difference.

When the 1997 Legislature rejected the Minnesota Twins' request for state money to help build a new stadium, Carl Pohlad flirted with selling the Twins to Don Beaver, who planned to re-locate the team to North Carolina. By the time that sale also fell flat, Pohlad had become the bad guy to some Minnesotans fed up with the big-buck business of Major League Baseball. Saint Paul Mayor Norm Coleman says Pohlad's new readiness to sell the team boosts Saint Paul's chances of turning public opinion in favor of a new $325 million ballpark.
Coleman: If Carl Pohlad is perceived as the problem, Carl is saying "hey, if what it takes to keep baseball in Minnesota is for us to step back, we'll step back. We'll step back. Bring in new ownership; we'll work with them and make that happen."
Coleman says he's very confident new ownership will be arranged by October. The purchase of the Twins from Pohlad would be contingent on construction of a new stadium. The stadium, in turn, hinges on whether Saint Paul voters approve a city sales-tax increase to pay for the ballpark and on whether the state Legislature agrees to put up money for the project. In 1997, lawmakers were swamped by public opposition to a stadium subsidy. In a poll conducted in June of this year, 62 percent of Saint Paul respondents said they opposed Coleman's ballpark idea. And 63 percent said Pohlad selling the team would not influence their opinion. Hastings resident Rich Claflin says Pohlad's departure would not change things.
Claflin: It's not an issue of "just because he has a lot of money, why doesn't he do it himself?" That's not it at all. It's an issue of: taxpayer money is supposed to be used for necessities. And building a ballpark just doesn't seem like a necessity to me.
Bruce Lewandowski of Rosemount says replacing one billionaire owner with a group of millionaire owners is not a significant change in his mind. But he conceded the new owners might run the team differently than Pohlad, who has cut the payroll to a minimum and is fielding a last-place team.
Lewandowski: If they put a competitive team on the field, they've got the public involved. Pohlad hasn't wanted to do that. It's a business decision in his mind. If we transfer to new owners maybe there'll be a different business decision, they'll be competitive, and the community support will be there.
Others, such as John Bloomquist, say Pohlad's removal is not terribly significant because his bad-guy role was undeserved.
Bloomquist: I think Mr. Pohlad should be commended for a lot of the things he has done for the community and for the Twins. He rescued the team back in 1984 from a group that was going to take it out of here to Tampa, as I recall. And he did under his ownership bring us two World Series. So I think to hold Mr. Pohlad as the bad guy in this situation is unfair.
Some analysts disapprove of Saint Paul's new agreement with the Pohlads on other grounds. Economist Ken Zapp of Metropolitan State University says the deal gives too many revenue sources, such as naming rights and concession income, to the Twins.

But even some Minnesotans who oppose the ballpark funding plan still suspect That, somehow, public money will be eventually put toward a new stadium. Kay Gerger lives in Shoreview.
Gerger: What seems to oftentimes happen is they'll ask the public their opinion and they'll seem to have done all their homework, but then if it's what they want to do, they'll go ahead and do it. I'm guessing they'll keep pushing for it until it happens one way or the other.