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December 15, 2004

Sviggum's prediction

Ok. I've had a night to sleep on it, and while this recent delopment in stadium politics is certainly something to get excited about, it is still just talk and definitely talk that we have heard before. It also includes all the common themes that we've had in stadium politics in year's past. First we have the optimistic politician, this year played by Steve Sviggum, the Speaker of the House:

"It's going to pass this session," House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, told reporters at the Capitol during the Associated Press' annual preview of the legislative session. It was the first time he has made such a prediction.

Again, we don't exactly know what will pass, or what form it will take, but Sviggum is predicting something will pass. That is significant in itself since I don't think I've ever heard such a high ranking politician make a promise like that regarding stadiums.

Next we have the guarded politicians, or the politicians that won't make any promises, but who also won't say a stadium bill doesn't have a chance. This year that part is played by both Gov. Pawlenty and Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson:

Pawlenty, who earlier this year proposed plans for building publicly subsidized stadiums for the Twins and Minnesota Vikings, said sports facilities are "not on the front burner" for him in the coming legislative session. He did say, however, that it is important to resolve the stadium issues soon.

Johnson, who has sponsored Twins stadium bills in the past, said an on-campus Gopher football stadium mostly funded by the university "has the most appeal right now." It's harder to sell public subsidies for a new Twins ballpark, he said, after the team's third baseman, Corey Koskie, signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract Tuesday with the Toronto Blue Jays.

So, here we have Pawlenty giving us the old "not until everything else is done" mumbo jumbo. This is not surprising and it is a statement we should all come to expect now. What Johnson had to say was a little more interesting and could also be construed as somewhat of a hint to the Minnesota Twins stadium contingent. First of all he says that the Gophers have a better shot because they are funding the bulk of the stadium themselves, and then he says that the Twins chances have decreased due to Koskie's departure and signing with Toronto.

What is Johnson getting at here? In the era of free agency players leave teams for new ones all the time. Is he upset that the Twins didn't pony up the money to keep Koskie? Is he upset with the amount of money Koskie received from Toronto? Does he think Koskie leaving is indicitive of the Twins lack of commitment to put a winning team on the field? Whatever the case, Koskie leaving should not impact the Twins chances for a new stadium bill at all. That is just stupid. I may have to write a letter and tell him so. Anyway, what I think Johnson is really trying to say here is that the Twins better get ready to open their wallets and start putting forward some real money to get this done. The U is doing it. Why can't the Twins?

Finally, we have a statement about how the state will make its contribution to the stadiums. Regarding a Gophers stadium, it appears Sviggum is leaving the door wide open for a number of funding possibilities, including borrowing money from the general fund. And regarding the Twins, Sviggum again suggested that the Tax Increment Financing method (a method perfected by the genius and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge) is the way to go to fund a Twins stadium:

The key to winning support, he said, was Pawlenty's proposal to pay part of the cost with a new form of tax-increment financing. Under his method, the growth in future income and sales taxes paid by the Twins would be used to help pay for a new ballpark. Without a new facility, the team theoretically would not pay higher taxes. So capturing that revenue for a stadium would not take tax dollars away from schools, health care or other services financed by the state's general fund.

"I think the increment idea is fairly well sold," Sviggum said.

So, here is where my pessimism comes in. Sviggum promises a stadium bill for the Twins will pass, probably using the TIF method above. However, that still leaves a huge gap in necessary funds to make this happen. We'll have approx. $110 million from the TIF method and $120 million from the Twins. That leaves about $270 million that someone will have to come up with to pay for the rest of the $500 million stadium. The Twins have consistently wanted the host community to pay for this with tax money, and this is where any plan will fall apart. Even if the legislature passes a stadium bill, it will require a referendum for any tax money to be used, and I am of the opinion that a referendum will fail whether it is in St. Paul or Hennepin County. I talked a little bit about this yesterday, but I hope Sid's report of the Twins working on a plan with both St. Paul and Hennepin County includes both more upfront money from the Twins and more private money from the host communities. Because using tax money just isn't going to fly.

Finally, the Star Tribune reported today that Dean Johnson has already nixed the idea of a new Stadium Task Force suggested by Sviggum. What is going on with Dean Johnson? I'm beginning to think he really has had a change of heart regarding this issue. He has gone from sponsoring stadium bills to being downright opposed to them. We'll have to keep an eye on him. However, having said that, a new stadium task force probably would have been worthless anyway. How many times does a committee or task force have to say, "We recommend building a Twins stadium." It has already been recommended, and we have tons of suggested funding options. Now let's get it done.

Posted by snackeru at December 15, 2004 8:59 AM | Stadiums


You and I both know that you will get your van fixed and a new 32" TV before the Twins get their stadium.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at December 15, 2004 2:42 PM

If getting a new Twins stadium was a criteria for getting a new 32" TV, I would never get a new TV.

Posted by: Shane at December 15, 2004 3:28 PM

I find the Gopher stadium being built first interesting. Was it in Shooter's column that I read of the possibility of the Vikings playing in a new Gopher's stadium for 2 years while the Metrodome is torn down and a new Vike's stadium is built on that site? That may also soften the blow for Mpls when St. Paul gets the Twins ballpark. My household hosted Randy Kelly for one of those neighborhood "Streetbeat" things. I asked him if this year was St. Paul's last run at the Twins ballpark. I know Kelly has said in the past that the site won't be available forever. He danced around the issue but I suppose alot has to do with whether he is re-elected this coming November.

Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at December 15, 2004 3:57 PM

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