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Park plan reaches committee
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04/27/2004 8:25 PM ET
Park plan reaches committee
Bill could facilitate park construction for Twins
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
The ballpark plan includes many of the same financing elements that were used to construct the Twins' current home more than two decades ago. (MLB.com illustration)
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ST. PAUL -- There has been little if any talk of incorporating elements from the Metrodome (save for the two World Series championships banners) in any design of a new ballpark for the Minnesota Twins. But there might be Metrodome-style retro financing incorporated if a ballpark deal is to get done this year.

On Tuesday at the Minnesota State Capitol, a promising plan for financing a new Twins ballpark was presented before an influential committee in the Minnesota State House of Representatives. The plan includes many of the same financing elements that were used to construct the Twins' current home more than two decades ago.

State Representative Doug Stang, a Republican from central Minnesota, presented a bill he has authored to the House Taxes Committee. If passed into law, his bill would facilitate the construction of new stadiums for the Twins and the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.

With representatives from both teams on hand for the hearing, Rep. Stang outlined a plan that would create a Minnesota Stadium Authority which, when in place, would select sites for the stadiums, as well as negotiate the leases, financing, ownership and operation of the facilities.

While the Twins have presented detailed drawings and plans for a retractable-roof ballpark to the State Legislature, they have remained site neutral. A new Twins ballpark is expected to be located in either downtown Minneapolis near Target Center (home of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves) or in downtown St. Paul, across the street from the Xcel Energy Center (home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild).

The Stang plan incorporates language similar to that in the 1978 legislation that led to construction of the Metrodome, which has been the home of the Twins and Vikings (along with University of Minnesota football) since 1982. A primary funding source for the new stadiums would be bonds, which was the main source used to fund construction of the Metrodome.

Other sources of funds spelled out in the bill include personal seat licenses and naming rights. Whichever city ends up hosting the new ballpark would also be allowed to levy taxes on ballpark-specific things like parking, tickets, area hotels, bars and restaurants, memorabilia and other goods and services sold in close proximity to the new facilities.

"We're seeking to capture dollars that but for the teams and stadiums being there would not exist," said Rep. Stang. Others have likened the capture of tax revenue from stadium-generated funds as a way for a new ballpark to pay for itself.

Even with the stadium effort being backed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the plan has still been met with some opposition, which was evident in the first hearing. Minnesota's state budget has been in a deficit the past two years, and some legislators are hesitant to back ballpark bills, saying they should not be a priority.

"The timing of this becomes a pretty big deal, when there is not yet a clear sign that the state economy will rebound," said Rep. Alice Hausmann, a Democrat from St. Paul. Rep. Stang responded by saying that making tough decisions like this one is the reason people get elected.

"This is a quality of life issue," said Rep. Stang. "It may not be the most opportune time politically, but we don't get to pick the timing. We make decisions every day, and they're difficult decisions, but that's why we're here."

Testimony on the bill will continue on Wednesday with officials from the Twins expected to speak in favor of the bill. If the committee passes the bill, it is expected to go to the floor of the Minnesota House for a vote in the coming weeks.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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