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April 1, 2004

Mike Opat responds

I am a sick person. I think about stadiums constantly. I am so in favor of building stadiums in Minnesota, it is no use trying to talk me out of it. Since last November I've been running a blog on a server in my basement, and I've had a lot of fun doing it. I've made some good connections, and kept my family and friends abreast of what is going on in my life. I started the blog to document the stadium battle in Minnesota and try to persuade anyone I can that it is time to build them. I expect to do the same on this blog. A while back I wrote to Mike Opat and asked him a series of questions concerning Hennepin County's efforts to build a stadium. Some of my questions and his answers may appear out of date, but I still think his answers are interesting:

Mike Opat is a Hennepin County commissioner and he currently leads the county's efforts to build a new Twins stadium.

  1. First of all, what is in it for Hennepin County as a whole by building a stadium in Minneapolis? According to reports, Hennepin County will have to raise between $25 and $30 million a year for debt service on bonds to build a new stadium. That seems like a lot of money. What kind of economic and/or quality of life impact do you feel a new stadium will have on the county that justifies that kind of yearly expense?

    Mike Opat's response:
    "The quality of life in Hennepin County is high. I think we all know that. That quality is owing to a great many things the sum of which makes us want to live here--even in February. [T]he quality of life attracts businesses here. Baseball is one of those intangible assets that adds to the quality of life. The Guthrie Theater, the Walker Art Center, etc. are also such assets. Keeping the vital asset that is baseball is "what's in it" for us. The fact that a ballpark would be in Minneapolis is really not important. We want to put a ballpark where it has the best chance of succeeding. Clearly, that would be in the Warehouse District where the action is."

    This answer I did not expect at all. I expected Mr. Opat to say, "We've run all the numbers and we feel that a stadium in the Warehouse District will generate X amount of dollars for the county, etc. etc..." I have no doubt that Hennepin County will make money on this deal, but what Mr. Opat is doing here arguing that the quality of life aspect of a stadium is the main reason he wants Hennepin County to host it. The quality of life impact is definitely high, as is the impact on community pride, not to mention the benefits of having family friendly entertainment in our community. The entertainment value, history, nostalgia, and memories MLB has provided Minnesota for decades should not be something we are willing to give up.

  2. Does the fact that Pawlenty has said the state will not help with any financing hurt Hennepin County's efforts?

    Mike Opat's response:
    "Yes. But what any Governor says at the start of a legislative session may not be what ends up in a bill. Decisions like these are compromises and all is not lost yet. But the state will have to help if we are to get this done."

    Not an unexpected answer. Pawlenty's recent comments concerning his lack of support for state funding of stadiums hurt all the communities counting on these funds. Mr. Opat is optimistic, that is for sure, and if it is going to take state help "if we are to get this done" I must say that dampens my spirits a little bit.

  3. According to Hennepin County's proposal you hope to impose county wide taxes to pay your share of the costs. Do you think this is the only way to fund the stadium, and if so, do you favor a referendum or not?

    Mike Opat's response:
    "I think the best way to finance the public portion of a project this large is with a very broad, low, tax county wide. It is not the only way, there are many other ways. But county wide is the best way."

    Time probably prohibited Mr. Opat from answering this question in full. If there is a "Plan B" I want to know about it because I think they are going to need it. But he is right, a "broad, low, tax county wide" would generate a lot of money and people wouldn't feel it at all.

  4. Finally, you know more about the current stadium climate at the legislature than I do. What is your gut feeling concerning the chances of a workable Twins stadium bill actually passing this session?

    Mike Opat's response:
    "I am unclear at this point. I think it will ultimately get down to how much the Governor wants to push for it. The heavy lifting will be in the Republican-controlled House of Reps. Not many forces can move them--especially their most conservative members, but the Governor may have
    some effect. IF he does not want to try, I don't think this will go anywhere."

    This is definitely something we've heard before. If any plan is to have a chance in the legislature, Pawlenty has got to push it through. If you haven't written Pawlenty yet, please do so now. We've got to let him know that we want this problem solved.

A special thanks to Mike Opat for answering my questions! Keep this blog in your "blogroll" for more stadium talk!

Posted by snackeru at April 1, 2004 10:01 PM | Stadiums


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