Monday, May 27, 2024
More from MPR


Pawlenty's talks on Twins stadium yield no action

Larger view
Twins president Jerry Bell and Hennepin County commissioners Mike Opat and Randy Johnson talk with reporters outside the governor's mansion in St. Paul on Wednesday. (MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) Gov. Tim Pawlenty tried to jump-start talks for a Twins ballpark Wednesday, meeting over lunch with Twins president Jerry Bell and Hennepin County Commissioners Mike Opat and Randy Johnson.

But they accomplished little, other than agreeing that something has got to give.

"Nothing was decided today at all, except we have to take another look at this and see if the dynamics can change somehow," Bell said after a meal of steak and cinnamon ice cream with Pawlenty at his residence. "It's obvious to anyone that the dynamics would have to change."

Bell said he meant the political dynamics at the statehouse, not the deal itself.

An agreement between Hennepin County and the team unraveled at the end of December because lawmakers didn't act on a request to let the county increase its sales tax by 0.15 percent. The higher tax - 3 cents on a $20 purchase - would have helped pay off the cost of building an open-air ballpark in downtown Minneapolis.

The biggest sticking point? Stadium backers wanted to raise the sales tax without asking voters. The team said a referendum - usually required of local governments seeking to raise their sales taxes - would have killed the deal.

Now Opat, the county board's lead stadium supporter, says he's wary of rolling out another ballpark plan.

"We've been down this road a few times now and we're going to be careful how we go down it again," he said. "We're going to try to see how much support there is before we get together again. That's where we left it today."

The ballpark project was billed as a $478 million undertaking last year, but the costs have since climbed by at least $30 million. Bell said the higher price tag might not be a problem if lawmakers wanted to approve a plan, but he didn't explain where the extra money would come from.

Pawlenty would like to see a ballpark proposal on the table during the legislative session that starts in March, spokesman Brian McClung said. But the outlook for a ballpark vote is murky, with races for governor and the entire Legislature on the ballot in November.

The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Vikings are also seeking state funding to build new football stadiums. The Gophers stadium had the broadest support among lawmakers during negotiations last fall for a special session that never happened.