03/15/2004 10:25 PM ET
Governor unveils ballpark proposal
By Patrick Donnelly / Special to MLB.com
Minnesota governor proposes ballpark plan
An aerial view of the Minnesota Twins' proposed new ballpark. (Twins Illustration)
New ballpark info
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Monday released the details of a multi-platform funding proposal that could help make a new Twins ballpark a reality.
"We think this outlines a solution to one of the most vexing policy issues to confront the state in many years," Gov. Pawlenty said at a press conference. "This problem has been lingering around the State Capitol like a bad smell for a decade. We think this is a reasonable and responsible way to get this done."
Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports Inc., said it was too soon to comment on specific hurdles the team and the state have yet to clear before an agreement can be reached.
"We'll take it one piece at a time and work toward a solution," Bell said.
However, he noted that if not for Gov. Pawlenty's guidance, the process would not have made it this far.
"We applaud the governor for his efforts in stepping up and recognizing the value of sports, and baseball in particular, to the quality of life in Minnesota," Bell said. "The process leads one to believe that we may have reason for cautious optimism. A lot of people want to see this get done
-- Minneapolis, St. Paul and Hennepin Co. have all been very engaged so far. But there's still some heavy lifting to do."
The biggest departure from past plans that have died in the State Legislature include team contributions of approximately 33 percent of the total project cost and the absence of any money from the state's general fund. Tax increment financing within a limited stadium district is part of the plan, but Gov. Pawlenty emphasized that TIF revenue is not currently in the general fund, nor would it be generated if not for the presence of a new stadium.
The first-term Republican governor has bipartisan support in the Legislature, where the bill will be sponsored in the House by Rep. Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, and in the Senate by Sen. Steve Kelley, D-Hopkins. Gov. Pawlenty also believes the proposal has the support of the teams, who participated in the drafting process. Not that he expects the Twins or Vikings to swallow it whole.
"We think this is an aggressive proposal that the teams hopefully will see some potential in," Gov. Pawlenty said.
The proposal acknowledges that both the Twins and Vikings are in need of new stadiums, but issued separate deadlines for each project
-- the offer for a Twins ballpark will expire on Dec. 31, 2004, while the Vikings effort will remain on the table through the end of 2006.
"We think the dynamics for a Twins stadium deal are more ripe at the moment," Gov. Pawlenty said. "The Vikings were less ready, and we want to give them more time."
Other aspects of the proposal highlighted contributions expected from the teams, state, host community and fans.
The host communities would be authorized, but not required, to conduct a voter referendum to authorize local taxes.
A new committee called the Minnesota Stadium Authority would be created to negotiate the stadium deals and run the stadiums once they are built.
The teams would be required to make a one-time payment at the beginning of the process, which would be put into an interest-bearing account. The state would then issue bonds at a lower interest rate, and the differential would be put toward the stadium costs.
If the teams are sold, any increase in their value due to a new stadium would be shared proportionally with the state.
The teams would be responsible for any and all cost overruns.
Gov. Pawlenty summarized the differences between his plan and others that were shot down in the past decade.
"In general, this is an innovative, creative solution to the problem without impacting the general fund," Gov. Pawlenty said. "It authorizes host communities that want to come forward and say they want to put a little skin in the game the chance to do that.
"And if it's going to get done, it's going to require leadership from me and the authors," Gov. Pawlenty said. "If that means I'll get kicked around a bit, that's OK."
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.