Even with growing talk of Major League Baseball folding the Twins, residents in Minneapolis and St. Paul remain strongly opposed to spending tax dollars on a new ballpark. Baseball's commissioner and the team owners are scheduled to meet Nov. 6 to discuss reorganization of the league. A poll conducted by Minnesota Public Radio and the St. Paul Pioneer Press shows people are concerned about losing the team, but that concern hasn't made them more receptive to investing in stadiums.
Public financing for sports facilities remains an unattractive proposition in the Twin Cities. Sixty-two percent of the likely voters polled in St. Paul and 71 percent of those queried in Minneapolis say they oppose any significant public financing for a new stadium to keep the Twins.
Poll respondent Mark Greenwald says he's a Twins fan and attends games at the Metrodome, but he doesn't think the state or city should use any public money to build a new stadium. "I don't think it's the role of government to be involved in something like that. I think there's plenty of opportunity in the private sector to raise funds to build a stadium," he said.
Greenwald was one of 406 Minneapolis residents who participated in the Mason Dixon poll conducted last Friday through Monday. Four-hundred-and-three St. Paul residents participated in a different poll that had similar results.
About half of the respondents in both cities say the possible loss of the Twins should not increase government and community efforts to help save the ball club. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.
The issue of eliminating teams became big news in the baseball world in the past week after Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said contraction was a workable option and could be implemented as soon as next season. The Twins are one of four teams mentioned in those possible cuts.
Twins spokesman Dave St. Peter says he can't comment directly about contraction. Selig has threatened to fine teams that discuss the issue publicly $1 million. St. Peter says the Twins are still preparing for next year's season. "There's been much speculation about Major League Baseball's labor situation and the concept of contraction. What I can tell you is that there is an owner's meeting next Tuesday in Chicago. This item has not been called for in terms of a vote and there's no definitive decision that has been made by the commissioner and Major League Baseball," he said.
Twins owner Carl Pohlad once threatened to sell the team to a North Carolina group if a new stadium wasn't built. The sale never took place.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, who supported stadium legislation in the past, says he's taking the threat of contraction seriously. But he says he and the public won't tolerate the owners using the threat of contraction to gain leverage.
"I hope it's not in any way to try to scare communities into doing something," Moe said. "That doesn't work. It certainly doesn't work here. It didn't work in the past in Minnesota. If they're having discussions, I hope they're serious discussions and not some sort of an attempt to influence the process. That generally has a backfire effect."
The state is forming a task force to discuss stadium options for the Twins, Vikings and the University of Minnesota. He says they plan to announce the members of the task force in November. However, Sviggum says the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 has made other topics, like education and safety, a priority in the next legislative session.
"It's not as high and not as important as those issues but it's certainly an important issue. We face hundreds of important issues every year, this would be one of them. But not of the magnitude of other things - education funding or homeland security," Sviggum said. While lawmakers say they'll continue to examine the issue, some Twin Cities business leaders worry that contraction could occur quickly. Dave Mona, a volunteer with NewBallparkInc., a coalition of local business executives who were working to find funding for a Twins stadium, says he and other business leaders are concerned that Pohlad may be frustrated that the state and cities have not found a way to build a new stadium.
He says the business community would be unable to find someone to buy the Twins or come up with funding for the team if Major League Baseball votes to eliminate the Twins next week.
But if the owners decide to delay contraction for a year, he says it's likely they could do something to keep the Twins. "I would say that's a scenario where you could see some pretty serious discussion about some other alternatives; whether it's make an offer or put together a group that make an offer that might keep the Twins here," according to Mona.
Mona says a decision by the owners to eliminate some baseball teams may not end the dispute over contraction. He says it's likely the state and player's union would file a lawsuit to halt any such plans.