05/05/2004 8:04 PM ET
Bill takes first step in Senate
Creation of Minnesota Stadium Authority approved
By Patrick Donnelly / Special to MLB.com
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- One day after the Twins ballpark hopes got a shot in the arm in the Minnesota House of Representatives, the first Senate committee to hear the bill gave it a green light.
The Senate's State and Local Government Operations Committee approved the bill with minor amendments by a voice vote and passed it along to the Finance Committee. The bill passed the House Taxes Committee by a narrow margin on Tuesday.
"I had hoped and expected that we could get out of the policy committee, as this bill doesn't have some of the more controversial financial issues that the House bill has," said Sen. Steve Kelley (DFL-Hopkins), the bill's author in the Senate.
Kelley said the Senate Finance Committee would not have a hearing on the bill until it's known whether the full House of Representatives has approved its version of the stadium legislation. On Tuesday, Rep. Doug Stang (R-Cold Spring) said the House likely wouldn't vote on the bill until early or mid-next week.
If the bill is approved in the House, the Senate would have some work to do in order to meet the May 17 deadline when the current session closes. The Senate bill still needs to be approved by the Finance and Taxes Committees, then pass a vote of the full Senate, then advance to a conference committee to hammer out the differences between the House and Senate bills before returning to each chamber for final approval.
All this before May 17. "We definitely don't want to drag this out into a special session," Kelley said.
The State and Local Government Operations Committee is the first step in the process of bringing the bill through the Senate. The committee's jurisdiction includes the creation or modification of any state agency. Thus, the creation of a new state governing body to run the Twins ballpark and Vikings stadium had to be approved by this committee before the bill could advance.
The committee heard from Twins Sports Inc. president Jerry Bell, as well as Minnesota Vikings executive vice president Mike Kelly. Other parties that testified included contingents from the City of St. Paul, City of Minneapolis and Hennepin Co., as well as private citizens in support of and against the ballpark and stadium efforts.
Bell, in his testimony, described the Metrodome as "not ideal for baseball, despite what we have accomplished the last two years." Referring to the offseason departures of pitchers LaTroy Hawkins, Eddie Guardado and Eric Milton, as well as catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Bell noted that "we would have liked to retain those players but we had to let them go" because their salaries had become unaffordable.
In illustrating the feasibility of continuing to play in the Metrodome, Bell said, "We play in a corner of a football stadium. Mike Kelly just testified that the dome's layout is good for football. He's right, but it's awful for baseball." Bell said that the football-oriented sightlines make it difficult for the Twins to sell any seats beyond first base and third base.
The Twins also displayed a model of their proposed ballpark -- which committee chair Sen. Linda Higgins (DFL-Minneapolis) described as "way cool" -- and Bell emphasized the team's plans to rely on Minnesota resources and materials whenever possible during the construction of the stadium.
Patrick Donnelly is a contributing writer for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.