In the Spotlight

News & Features

Twins stadium bills still alive
By Tim Pugmire
Minnesota Public Radio
February 19, 2002
Click for audio RealAudio

Hours after a Minnesota House committee rejected legislation to build a football stadium for Vikings and Gophers, another panel approved two bills Monday to build a new home for the Twins.

Both bills would help build a major league ballpark in St. Paul, but they include different approaches to financing the projects. Lawmakers also want to give St. Paul voters the ultimate approval.

At the legislative hearing on plans for a new Twins stadium, artists sketches of a St. Paul stadium solution dotted the hearing room.

St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly's plan to build a new Minnesota Twins ballpark breezed through a Senate committee last week. Its first test before a House panel got a similarly warm reception. Kelly told members of the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Committee that his proposal to create a three-percent food and beverage tax and a $1 ticket surcharge would save the Twins from contraction.

"We believe that we can create a package that allows us to create the revenue streams that we need, while the state's participation is largely associated with providing its ability to issue bonds to construct the ballpark, and to give us authorization to tax ourselves," Kelly said.

Kelly says a Twins stadium could bring an estimated two million people to downtown St. Paul annually.

Rep. Tom Osthoff, DFL-St. Paul, is sponsoring the House bill. The Chamber of Commerce, restaurant owners and labor leaders are backing the measure. Parent and baseball fan Amy Fletcher urged legislators to do the right thing for Minnesota.

"I've seen the vitality that the Xcel Energy Center has brought to St. Paul during the hockey season, and strongly believe that an outdoor ballpark can do the same in the summer. While like everyone else I don't look forward to paying additional taxes, I know that we must continue to invest in our city to keep our community nationally recognized as a great place to raise a family," she said.

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, says he thinks most Minnesotans want to keep the Twins. His legislation would build a stadium financed with primarily user fees, such as ticket taxes, personal seat licenses, media fees, rental car tax and a metro area tax on the sale of sports memorabilia. Paymar says building the stadium as part of development of adjacent restaurants, shops and housing would also generate more money.

"We envision it being used outside of the 80 home games a year on multiple days, with multiple kinds of events. So, that the stadium district is viable, there's people coming to the downtown, there's people coming to the stadium district, so there would be a consistent revenue stream," Paymar said.

Stadium opponents criticized both bills as bad public policy. Dan McGrath of Progressive Minnesota helped defeat a St. Paul stadium referendum three years ago to create a city wide sales tax. He told lawmakers that voters should not be left out of the process this time.

"In 1999, 75,000 people showed up to the polls to vote on this very issue. And to snatch that away from voters and not allow for that engaged public debate simply is a mistake when your trying to legislate tax increases of this magnitude," according to McGrath.

Members of the committee agreed, and amended the Paymar bill to be contingent on a successful city referendum. Rep. Dan McElroy, R-Burnsville, the committee chairman, says he thinks a referendum is essential for either bill to gain final House approval.

The panel sent both Twins bills forward without recommendation. The Osthoff bill is headed to the House Capitol Investment Committee and the Paymar bill to the Tax Committee.

More from MPR
  • Session 2002 Issue: Stadium
  • A Baseball Battle