In the Spotlight

News & Features

Vikings, Twins pick apart stadium bill
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
May 21, 2002


While Gov. Jesse Ventura ponders whether to accept a Twins ballpark bill now sitting on his desk, fallout from the last-minute deal continues to accumulate. Vikings owner Red McCombs says he's disappointed a football stadium was given only cursory treatment, and he now says he'll explore options to sell or relocate the franchise. Meanwhile, Twins president Jerry Bell says the team will push to have a roof added to a ballpark.

Vikings owner Red McCombs
Red McCombs, the owner of the Minnesota Vikings football team, is disappointed the Legislature did not address his stadium concerns in its bill to support a new ball field for the Minnesota Twins. McCombs says he will look at options for selling or relocating the team.
(MPR file photo)

In a written statement, Vikings owner Red McCombs expresses his frustration that the Legislature this year didn't do more to help the football team realize its stadium dreams.

The Twins ballpark bill does set aside $500,000 for a design study of a Vikings-University of Minnesota Gophers facility. And it contemplates moving forward with a funding plan next year. But McCombs says that's not enough.

In his statement, McCombs says he's engaged JP Morgan Securities to explore sale or relocation options for the team. Vikings officials declined to offer additional comment, but Republican House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty says they shouldn't give up hope. Pawlenty, who voted against the Twins bill, says sharing the facility with the University of Minnesota could open the door for public participation.

"If we can put together the numbers in a way that allows the State of Minnesota to pay for the Gophers' share of that stadium - and allow for the Vikings to pay their own fair share - that's a partnership that might work," says Pawlenty.

Twins President Jerry Bell
Minnesota Twins President Jerry Bell says he wants to put a roof on a new baseball stadium at the time of construction, which could increase the price tag by up to $100 million.
(MPR file photo)

The Twins, meanwhile, say they, too, have concerns about the ballpark bill. It requires them to make a $120 million down payment for the $330 million facility, and to pay operating costs of roughly $12 million a year. The remainder would come from local restaurant and lodging taxes in the host community, subject to a referendum.

Team president Jerry Bell now says he'd like to put a roof on the ballpark - an addition that could bump the total price tag up to $400 million.

"My plan is to start working on a design that would include a roof immediately, as part of the initial construction. In order to do that, we're going to have to partner with a fairly large contractor to see if there's a way that we can lease a roof, but put it on there right away," says Bell.

Lawmakers envisioned the ballpark to be so-called "roof-ready," but didn't anticipate one would be included in the initial design. The financing bill makes no provisions for a roof, meaning the Twins will have to work out a way to pay for it on their own, or return to the Legislature next year for additional funds.

Bell says he's also concerned about a provision requiring Major League Baseball to guarantee a franchise would play in Minnesota for 30 years. Bell says he's already begun discussions on that point, but calls the request "unprecedented."

"...They aren't so sure that they like this or there's one issue after another. So we've got to make sure that when we're dealing with them, we're on the same page."

- St. Paul City Council President Dan Bostrom, about dealing with the Twins

St. Paul officials - eager to bring the team to their city - say the team will have to sort through its concerns before asking voters to raise local taxes. Dan Bostrom is president of the St. Paul City Council.

"Everything I've read is that they aren't so sure that they like this or there's one issue after another. So we've got to make sure that when we're dealing with them, we're on the same page," says Bostrom. "And once we've got that established, then it's time to set the election date."

The referendum date is itself another hurdle. Last week, the St. Paul City Council voted unanimously to hold a referendum concurrent with the September primaries. But Bell says he'd like to see one sooner, possibly in July, so the stadium issue doesn't become entangled in election-year politics - and so the state can take advantage of low-interest rate bonds.

Bell is also concerned that counties are excluded from bidding for the ballpark site. That provision sinks a partnership between Hennepin County and Minneapolis to host the stadium. Gov. Jesse Ventura has said that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is interested in buying the team, but only if he has the option of keeping the Twins in Minneapolis.

Ventura says he's concerned that keeping counties out of the bidding process could hamstring the stadium effort. But he won't say if the concern is significant enough to invite a veto.

More from MPR
  • Audio: Midday discusses the stadium bill May 20, 2002. Guests include Twins President Jerry Bell and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
  • Stadium bill may pave way for court settlement
  • Session 2002: Stadium