MINNEAPOLIS -- With clanging bells at the Metrodome light rail station as a backdrop, the Minnesota Twins and Hennepin County announced Monday that they have agreed on a proposal to fund and construct a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis."I can just visualize it out there now," said Twins owner Carl Pohlad of the proposed 42,000-seat stadium that would open in 2009 in the city's historic Warehouse District. "It's something we've dreamed about, all of us." The proposed ballpark would be located at the Rapid Park site behind the Target Center, which is located at the convergence of I-394 and I-94, the Hiawatha Light Rail line and the proposed Northstar Commuter Rail line. In addition to existing parking facilities, the area would benefit from access to existing bars and restaurants and the Downtown Minneapolis business district, as well as future mixed-use development, "Twinsville," which would be modeled after the Wrigleyville neighborhood in Chicago. Paying for a new ballpark has been a sticking point for past proposals, but the team and the county believe they've come up with a unique funding mechanism that will cover the project's $444 million price tag without tapping into the State of Minnesota's general fund. "This is the best deal we've had so far -- it's so simple and so straightforward," said Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports, Inc. "It doesn't involve any state money, and so many aspects of the deal are exactly what the state legislators have been asking us to come up with." Under the proposal, the Twins would contribute $125 million, including a $40 million payment up front, with the balance to be paid prior to completion of construction. Hennepin County would fund its share -- including $235 million in construction costs and approximately $84 million in site development expenses -- through a countywide sales tax increase of .15 percent, or three cents on a $20 purchase. "Like a lot of people here, I'm a resident of Hennepin County," said Twins executive board member Jim Pohlad. "Any resident can be proud of the job the county did in the negotiations. They were diligent and thoughtful, they listened to us and left nothing to be decided. There are no side agreements, nothing is hidden. "If a ballpark can't be built on this proposal," he added, "I find it hard to imagine how it ever would be." The next step is to win approval of the State Legislature, which must grant the county the authority to implement the sales-tax increase without a referendum, which the team believes would be a deal-breaker.
|"This is the best deal we've had so far -- it's so simple and so straightforward. It doesn't involve any state money, and so many aspects of the deal are exactly what the state legislators have been asking us to come up with."|
|-- Jerry Bell, president, Twins Sports, Inc.|
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.