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Legislators Warming to Stadium Idea
By Laura McCallum
January 31,2001
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The Minnesota Twins are back at the Capitol talking about a new stadium. This time, team officials are taking a go-slow approach, listening to legislators and floating ideas. Some lawmakers are warming to one idea that doesn't involve a direct taxpayer subsidy, but they say funding a new ballpark won't be a top priority during a busy budget session.

Twins President Jerry Bell says the governor said he was open minded, and willing to listen to new funding ideas for a baseball stadium.
TWINS PRESIDENT JERRY BELL has been meeting with legislative leaders, and he met with Gov. Ventura to talk about the "economics of baseball." Bell revealed little after his meeting with the governor, but said it was a constructive discussion. He says he didn't present a formal plan or ask Ventura to take a position.

"Last time, we jumped in the pool without testing the water; this time, we decided that it might be a much better idea to listen, and that's what we've been doing," Bell said.

Bell says the governor said he was open minded, and willing to listen to new funding ideas. Ventura has been outspoken in his opposition to using taxpayer money for a stadium, and spokesman John Wodele says that hasn't changed.

"If I was a promoter of a stadium with tax dollars, my assumption would be that the governor would not, in the end, support tax dollars for stadiums, based on his past statements," said Wodele.

One idea the Twins are talking about doesn't include a direct taxpayer subsidy. Team owner Carl Pohlad would put up as much as half the cost of a $300 million stadium, and also guarantee repayment of a no-interest state loan of up to $150 million. A host city would provide a site, and the plan would hinge on Major League Baseball putting a limit on players' salaries.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Dick Day of Owatonna says he thinks the idea is the most feasible stadium plan he's heard about in a long time, and the Twins are floating it in a savvy way.

"They didn't promise anything, they didn't threaten me, they didn't do anything; this is kind of a plan that we're thinking about, and we're going to tell everybody about, and we're going to see if we could put something like this together," Day said.

Day says he doesn't think there will be a big anti-stadium outcry if the plan is presented in the right way. But one stadium critic says the public made it very clear three years ago that they didn't want to pay for a new ballpark, when calls from angry constituents jammed the Capitol phone system.

"My instincts tell me, from my years of experience around here, that's it's (the stadium issue) going to end up here, at least in some way, shape or form."

- Sen. Roger Moe
Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, says the latest version of the Twins stadium proposal does involve taxpayer money, no matter how the team spins it. Marty says a no-interest loan of $150 million, paid back over 25 years, actually costs the state about $45 million.

"They use the term loan to make it sound like it's free, like it doesn't cost the taxpayers anything, but then they rig it in such a way that it's very costly," said Marty.

But many lawmakers view a no-interest loan much differently than other methods of financing a stadium. It's the way the state helped the Minnesota Wild build its new arena in St. Paul.

DFL Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe of Erskine says if the Twins owner puts up a sizeable amount and the team achieves some needed reforms in baseball, the idea stands a good chance of being considered this session.

"Based upon this latest flurry of activity, my instincts tell me, from my years of experience around here, that's it's going to end up here, at least in some way, shape or form," Moe said. Moe says the stadium will not be a top priority for lawmakers already dealing with a full plate of issues this session. Many observers say the Twins probably have to push the plan this year if they're to have any chance of success, because next year, lawmakers facing re-election won't want to go near what's been a political hot potato.

Laura McCallum covers the Capitol for Minnesota Public Radio. Reach her via e-mail at