July 15, 2004
Twins and stadiums
There have been a lot of interesting columns and articles in recent days concerning my favorite topic, the Twins and their never ending drive for a new stadium. First of all we have Sid Hartman who wrote a column on Sunday which was highlighted by some nice comments from our governor Tim Pawlenty:
"If we have a special session, which is in serious doubt -- in fact, I would probably say it's not going to happen now," the governor responded. "Many legislators feel the stadium would be too much to bite off during a special session.
"I do think, though, the good news is that it is more likely than ever that the Legislature will seriously consider and perhaps pass a Twins stadium deal or a stadium deal more broadly sometime in the next 12 months.
So, to recap, even if there was a special session, it is unlikely a stadium bill would be part of it. That shouldn't be a surprise or a worry for Twins fans since I don't think a special session will be called at all. Secondly, Pawlenty thinks there is enough interest and desire to pass a stadium bill within the next 12 months:
"If it doesn't happen in a special session, I think it is ripe for consideration as early as January or February, when the legislature comes back. So there is still a lot of hope, more hope than there was a year or two ago."
You might think that I would be jumping up and down in happiness over this statement, but I've heard it all before. There is always plenty of optimism, but never any resolve to actually get something done. So, we'll see. However I think it is highly unlikely that the legislature considers a stadium bill until the end of the regular session next year, not January or February.
The next set of articles we have come from Patrick Reusse and Tom Powers, who both wrote about the lack of fan support for the Twins. Tom Powers in particular had some choice words for the fan base of the Twin Cities:
"We should stop kidding ourselves. Minneapolis and St. Paul should have a Class AAA team instead of the Twins. This is not major league territory."
He later added:
During a year in which attendance is up throughout baseball, the Twins are drawing 1,000 fewer per game than last season. After a historic stretch of three consecutive complete-game shutouts last week, they drew 14,000 against Detroit. The season-ticket base is a ridiculous 7,500.
Once again, the Twins likely will not be able to coax 2 million fans into the Metrodome. Remember that 2 million barely is a respectable number these days — the equivalent of a batter hitting .260. And that's despite dirt-cheap ticket prices and the team contending for its third consecutive division title.
I've written before why I think there is a lack of fans at the Metrodome but I think a couple points bear repeating. Of course, my main reason for pathetic fan support is the fact that the Metrodome is indoors and a horrible baseball stadium. There is no getting around that. And again, people are sick of Pohlad and his whining about a stadium. Pohlad absolutely destroyed the fan base during the 90s with really bad teams and threats to move to North Carolina. There is still a lot of negativity towards the Twins as a result of this. Really, you reap what you sow.
A comment from Curt in Grand Forks also deserves repeating. For years the Twins have been telling us how bad the Metrodome is for baseball. They have beat into our heads over and over again that the Dome has "poor sightlines" for baseball and that it is a football stadium. For years the Twins themselves have been basically telling us that watching baseball in the Dome is not that much fun. Why are they so surprised that people are listening to them?
Does this mean that the Twins don't have a good fan base? Hardly. In the same column Powers also writes:
[Team President Dave] St. Peter says he is not giving up. He points out that, incredibly, TV ratings are near an all-time high.
"There has been a disconnect," he said. "So many people are watching on TV, and that says there is a lot of interest. But they aren't coming to the ballpark. It's our job to figure out why."
The recurring theme, he says, is that people don't like the Metrodome. Which is unfortunate because people don't want to build a new park, either.
It is those precious TV ratings that are now our only hope for a new stadium. Those ratings, and the fact that the Twins were the first AL team to draw 3 million fans, prove this area is major league. People love watching the Twins, but they don't like the Metrodome. La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune wrote a great article yesterday which quoted Selig as saying that contraction is off the table and unnecessary due to MLB's better economic balance. Again, this is good news/bad news for Twins fans. Without the threat of contraction the stadium drive loses a little steam. However, if you read between the lines of Selig's comments contraction may no longer be an option, but relocation is still a very real option. Virginia may be chosen to get the Expos, but Portland, OR is also making a big push. Could Portland make a push for the Twins? Powers seems to think so:
"My guess is that the Twins franchise one day will wind up in Portland, Ore., where the veteran players will tell stories about gloomy days and sparse crowds in Minnesota. And such a move will be good for baseball, solidifying one more financially shaky team."
Personally I think this threat is very real. Oakland, Florida, and the Twins are all in the mix, but Pohlad has already proven he has the balls to pull the trigger.
So, why are the TV ratings so important now? Even though Victory Sports failed it still had a positive effect towards the stadium drive. When the Twins weren't on TV people in Minnesota were literally freaking out. Legislators were inundated with mail demanding they do something to put the Twins back on TV. They were so overwhelmed they even put an amendment in the stadium bill that the Twins had to be on TV! Can you imagine the kind of mail and feedback they'll get if the Twins not only aren't on TV but aren't even in Minnesota? That, Twins fans, is reason for optimism. The Victory Sports debacle may still prove successful if it can push this stadium bill over the top.
There will be more later. I've got to get to work!