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Twins hoping to bring more fans to the dome this year
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Pitcher Joe Nathan ( left) of the Minnesota Twins is congratulated by catcher Joe Mauer (right) after beating the Seattle Mariners 8-4 on April 5, at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images )
The Minnesota Twins play their first home game of the 2005 season Friday night against the Chicago White Sox. The game will be the Twins' fourth straight opening day sell-out. The Twins are the odds-on favorites to repeat as the American League Central Division champs. Some sportswriters even predict the team will make it all the way to the World Series this year. However, up until now, the Twins' on-field success hasn't translated into bigger attendance numbers.

Minneapolis, Minn. — In 2002 the Twins and their fans faced the possibility that Major League Baseball would squeeze the team out of existence as part of a plan to downsize the league. Since then, the Twins have been one of the League's best teams.

"I think they're stronger than just about everyone else in the American League. They've got depth of pitching with Santana and Radke (and) a good bullpen," says Jim Caple, sportswriter for ESPN.com and a former reporter for the Pioneer Press.

Caple is also the author of a book on the New York Yankees, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes." Caple predicts the Twins will pass the Yankees and make the World Series this year as long as their players stay healthy.

When asked about why the Twins attendance hasn't matched their players' performance, Caple blames the Twins efforts to get public funding for a new ball park.

"I think it all comes down to two words. And that's Carl Pohlad," says Caple. "You've got an owner who's basically treated the fans terribly over the last decade or so; who's done nothing but try to convince people that the spot where the Twins play is a terrible place to watch baseball."

Dave St. Peter, President of the Twins disagrees with Caple's assessment.

"Well, I don't know that we've ever gone as far as telling people not to come out," St. Peter says.

He says the dome has its shortcomings. The Dome's limited concession areas and luxury boxes prohibit the team from making the kind of revenue they say they need to keep up with big spending teams like the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. But St. Peter says he doesn't think fans are staying away because of the issues the team has raised about the dome.

"Certainly the facility has become much maligned," he says. "It certainly doesn't present the game the way a lot of fans would like to see it presented. And those fans have certainly been vocal about that. There's no question in my mind it has an impact. But, that being said, from an organization point of view, we know we're going to be playing in the Metrodome for the next several seasons. And to that end, we're working very hard to make sure it's the best possible baseball experience it can be."

It's going to be a beautiful day on Friday for the home opener and I'm going to go inside to watch baseball.
- Lucas Christiansen, Twins fan

The Twins have a couple of promotional ideas up their sleeves. Later this season the Twins will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1965 Twins World Series season. St. Peter says the Twins would like to break the two million fan attendance mark this year. The last time the team drew that many fans to the dome was 1993.

Many fans choose to cheer on the Twins from afar. They watch on television or listen to Twins radio broadcasts. It's much less expensive than buying a ticket and making the trip to downtown Minneapolis. But some fans, like Lucas Christiansen say they think more people would come to see the Twins play in person in an open air stadium.

"I was just commenting today how it's a really nice day out and it would be really nice to be outside," says Christiansen, who's taking a walk in downtown St. Paul on a nice spring day. He's going to Friday night's game at the Dome and finds it all kind of ironic.

"It's going to be a beautiful day on Friday for the home opener and I'm going to go inside to watch baseball," he says.

A few blocks away Fue Yang also enjoys the sunny weather. He's sitting on a park bench and wearing a white Twins jersey.

"I hope they make it this year," he says. "(There are) high expectations. And hopefully Mauer can stay healthy this year. I want to see how he does."

Yang says he usually watches the Twins on television. He'll watch his first Twins game in the dome next week. Yang also says he thinks an outdoor stadium might bring more people out to see the team.

"Three months of winter, you know, the sun comes out it's really nice out there some people want to spend some time outside after being cooped up for three months inside," he says.

At the State Capitol, Twins stadium funding legislation has all but stalled. However two legislative committees have approved bills allowing community ownership of the Minnesota Twins. Supporters say the legislation could provide the momentum needed to pass a stadium bill.

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