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What's Changed?
By William Wilcoxen
October 8, 1999
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Saint Paul voters now know that if their city becomes home to a big-league ballpark, the team that plays there would be owned primarily by Glen Taylor and Robert Naegele Jr. Taylor and Naegele's purchase of the Minnesota Twins is contingent on construction of a Saint Paul stadium, which must clear several more hurdles to become reality. But current Twins owner Carl Pohlad went to the Metrodome to say goodbye to the team he's owned for 16 years.

ADVOCATES OF A NEW BASEBALL STADIUM say Carl Pohlad's willingness to sell the Twins to a group led by Taylor and Naegele will help the ballpark plan gain approval from Saint Paul voters next month and from state legislators next spring. But critics of public financing for a stadium say the agreement accomplishes little. Saint Paul attorney Tom Montgomery founded the group "Fiscal Accountability for New Stadiums."
Montgomery: I don't see anything that's really changed. We've substituted one billionaire for some new billionaires. They still want us to build them a stadium.
Pohlad has long argued that given the rising cost of fielding a Major League Baseball team, the economic viability of the Twins depends upon their gaining a new stadium equipped with moneymaking opportunities that do not exist at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Saint Paul residents will vote November 2 on whether to raise the city sales tax half-percent to pay a third of the cost of a $325 million ballpark that would contain luxury seating, restaurants and other profitable amenities. If voters approve, the crusade would go to the Capitol where legislators would be asked to authorize Saint Paul's tax increase and allocate more than $100 million in state funds. State Senator John Marty, a persistent critic of public subsidies for pro sports, says a stadium bill in 2000 would fare no better than a 1997 funding request which was rejected amid vehement public opposition.
Marty: Certainly Glen Taylor is a former senator. He's a former senate minority leader for a number of years, and he's got lots of good contacts at the Capitol. But I don't see that changing the public opinion that kept this thing from happening several years ago. I think the public is still just as angry about it, regardless of who the owner is.
Stadium backers think Pohlad's readiness to step aside strengthens the case for a publicly funded ballpark. Some say Pohlad alienated many Minnesotans during the 1997 stadium campaign when he indicated he had a deal to sell the Twins to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver, who would move the team east. The deal proved to be non-binding and the sale never occurred. Pohlad also offered to invest more than $100 million dollars in a proposed Minneapolis Stadium, but later characterized that investment as a loan to the state. If the Saint Paul referendum fails or if the stadium effort collapses next spring, Carl Pohlad will continue to own the Twins. But he treated his press conference at the Metrodome as an emotional farewell, reminiscing about the joys of owning the baseball team and of their two world championships.
Pohlad: Two of the greatest thrills of my life, and I'm sure everybody else's, was the final game, the final out of the two World Series games. There will never be another moment in my life that will compare to that.
Pohlad refused to entertain the thought of the stadium effort failing and his retaining the Twins. Team president Jerry Bell, who helped negotiate the terms of the sale to Taylor and Naegele, says the talks never included the possibility of the stadium proposal dying.
Bell: We could only focus on this thing being done. We eliminated that possibility right away because then you start playing the "what if" game, and you can't negotiate a deal if you're doing that. You have to be focused 100 percent that this is going to pass.
If Saint Paul does approve the referendum and the issue heads to the Capitol, there's very little chance lawmakers will resolve things before the 2000 baseball season begins. Bell says both sets of owners would jointly run the Twins during the winter and spring in what he termed a dual stewardship arrangement. He says Pohlad and the Taylor-Naegele group would agree on how to run the team before the start of spring training.