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Stadium seekers geared up for '04 push

Minneapolis, Minn. — (AP) - After sitting out this year's legislative session, three Minnesota sports teams seeking new stadiums are gearing up to make their cases in 2004.

Representatives of the Metrodome's three tenants - the Twins, Vikings and Gophers - indicated Wednesday that they will be at the Capitol next year in pursuit of new homes. None sounded interested in sharing space, though, meaning lawmakers might hear pitches for three new stadiums.

During a Minnesota Associated Press Sports Association panel discussion, the University of Minnesota's chief financial officer, Richard Pfutzenreuter, said school officials will study the possibility of building a Gophers-only football stadium on campus.

The Vikings last fall rejected a proposed site as too small, while the university was wary about the Vikings' vision for using a shared stadium on non-game days. Though Vikings consultant Lester Bagley said the team hadn't ruled out a joint stadium, Pfutzenreuter talked like the Gophers expected to go it alone.

"We had a lot of positive comments and interest on the part of our alumni and donors who said `Why don't you look at your own stadium?"' Pfutzenreuter said.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently signaled a willingness to address stadium issues next year. Roy Terwilliger, whom Pawlenty named chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said all of the teams will have "equal importance."

"I speak in concert with the governor that this (stadium) problem needs to be resolved," he said.

The Twins are furthest along. A year ago, legislators approved a plan to have the state help finance a $330 million ballpark, but the Twins couldn't reach a deal with a host city that would help them to repay the debt.

Jerry Bell, president of the Twins' parent company, said the team wants the Legislature to permit broader involvement by local governments, include plans for a retractable roof and remove a requirement that any stadium-related taxes be subject to voter approval.

"What if it fails? Then what are you going to do?" Bell asked of the referendum. "Everyone would be afraid to do anything after that point."

Asked to estimate the cost of a new ballpark now, Bell said only that it would be higher than $330 million and would continue to rise with delays.

For their part, the Vikings want to build a 70,000-plus seat stadium, which could cost $500 million or more. Bagley said sites in St. Paul and Anoka County are receiving the most consideration.

"Bottom line, the biggest problem for all of us is how do you pay for it, not where it goes," Bagley said.

The Vikings are under lease to play in the Metrodome through 2011, but coordinating funding and building can take five years or more.

"Let's address this issue before it becomes a crisis because that's where we're headed," Bagley said.

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