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February 4, 2005

Community ownership of the Twins

Vince has chastised me for not writing about this sooner, so I've decided to tackle this before the weekend starts. In today's Star Tribune, Julian Loscalzo writes a thoughtful opinion piece concerning community ownership of the Twins entitled, If it's our baseball team, the funds will come. Personally, I think this is a pretty good idea and I wouldn't mind seeing it happen. Have the state buy the team, and then the state and the people of the state profit from the team and the construction of a new stadium. No brainer, right? I don't know if it is very fesible, but it is a good idea.

There is a little history with this initiative, as there is with almost every stadium plan in Minnesota. Loscalzo is no stadium newbie; he has been around for a long time and actually fought against destroying Metropolitan Stadium with his "Save the Met" campaign. Plus, this idea of community ownership of sports franchises is definitely not unique. Green Bay has done it, the Boston Celtics have done it, the Kansas City Royals have (kind of) done it, and even the Twins have tried it before. In 1997 Pohlad offered to donate the Twins to a local foundation, a move that would have tied the Twins to Minnesota seemingly forever. There were two "catches" though. First, he would only do it if the deal included a new publicly financed ballpark. Secondly, the state, or the foundation, had to cover Pohlad's accumulated losses while owning the Twins. At the time that was $85 million. The deal obviously fell through.

What are Pohlad's thoughts about this now? Would he still donate the Twins to a local foundation ala the Kansas City Royals? And if he did, would he agree to donate the team without the promise of a new ballpark? And what about all that debt? Loscalzo wants to do something a little bit different than having Pohlad donate the team to a foundation, though. He wants the state to buy the team. I would expect that this means the state would incur the team's debt, but that a new stadium would not have to be a part of the deal. I must admit that I don't know how Pohald feels about this or if he has ever made any comments about it. It has also been widely reported that Jim Pohlad, Smilin' Carl's son, wants the team to remain in the Pohlad family. All of this, of course, means that Loscalzo's plan will be an uphill battle no matter what. What else is new.

Loscalzo does have some convincing arguments though. He writes:

[C]ommunity ownership of the Twins is the only way to determine whether the Twins are a valued community asset: If fans, corporations and taxpayers are not willing to invest in their team, there is no reason to expend any public dollars for a new stadium.

This is a little bit of a sticky wicket, if you ask me. How much of an investment from the public would be necessary before we proved that we are "willing to invest in the team"? Whatever the figure though, I don't think the Twins would have any problems reaching it. In 2003, Harris Interactive found that the Twins were America's 5th favorite baseball team. The Twins dropped to 17th in 2004, but even then, I think this is an indication that the Twins have a nice fan base who would probably be willing to make an investment in the team.
We successfully passed in the Senate last year a "community ownership" bill with a 55-10 margin and had more than 35 House members from both sides of the aisle as coauthors. Our proposal complies with Major League Baseball's ownership guidelines and its rather traditional business ownership model.

If anything, this demonstrates once again what a bunch of idiots the legislators in the House are. The Senate is not the problem when it comes to stadium politics in Minnesota, it is the House. A bunch of worthless stiffs if you ask me. But, I could go on and on about that. Let's move on. I found this next statement by Loscalzo to be a little confusing:
The last thing Minnesota ought to do is repeat our Metrodome mistake. The Dome was the last multipurpose stadium; now stadium backers seem to want to build the last of a generation of ho-hum "renaissance stadiums."

We should get ahead of the curve and think about how to build the next Wrigley Field or Fenway Park -- a cantilevered stadium that would keep fans close to the action but still provide them with better amenities. We don't need or want the next Miller Park.

First of all, I love Miller Park. The seats are close, the atmosphere is great, the grass is green, the sky is blue, the brats are tasty, the stadium sauce is spicy. I don't think we could go wrong with Miller Park. Does Loscalzo not like the retractable roof? Does he not like Wisconsin in general? I would love an explanation of this. Secondly, I am of the opinion that Bostonians hate Fenway Park. The seats are too small and uncomfortable, they are angled poorly, and people are practically sitting on each other. Am I wrong here? Do I have the wrong impression? Still, I'll give Loscalzo the benefit of the doubt. He seems to know what he wants in a stadium whereas I'll take anything at this point.

Loscalzo makes some good arguments throughout the article. And I would love to see his plan implented. It would keep the Twins in Minnesota, and I do think that the state could monetarily benefit from owning the team and building a new ballpark (since the state only seems to care about ROI in terms of money). These questions still remain though: is the House capable of doing anything that involves the word "stadium," and is Pohald willing to go along with this plan? In order to buy something, you have to have a willing seller. Right now, I think Pohlad wants to keep the team.

Posted by snackeru at February 4, 2005 3:43 PM | Twins


Alright, way to get back to the basics my man. Much obliged. And now since you did a solid for me, here's a semi-solid for you. My local rep actually wrote back to my email. True to form, you can tell that she's a politician and won't commit yet without a solid proposal in front of her. However, if its any help in updating your Greet Machine Voter's Guide, go for it.

Dear Vincent,
Thank-you for your thoughtful and eloquent email. I greatly appreciate
that you have taken the time to express your opinion regarding stadiums
in Minnesota. It is uncertain as to how much of an issue stadiums will
be this session given the budget shortfall. Please know however, that
should a proposal come forward I will listen and carefully evaluate it
and consider your input.
I hope that you will continue to contact me with your questions and
concerns. Good luck to you in your studies. I invite you to stop by
for a visit when you are back in town.

Thank-you again,
Maria Ruud

P.S. - I went to college in Boston and the Bostonians love Fenway. That's why they had to add seats on top of the monster b/c none of the fans wants it torn down.

Posted by: Vince at February 4, 2005 4:13 PM

I interpreted Loscalzo's comments to mean that we should not try to build another huge multipurpose stadium that attempts to be everything to everyone. I imagine he would favor a Twins only stadium that would seat 35-40,000. Something a little more intimate, that wouldn't require two million fans to turn a profit. And someplace that doesn't feel completely empty when 18,000 fans show up on a Monday night. I'm all for community ownership. Can North Dakotans buy shares, too?

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at February 4, 2005 6:40 PM

I have been to so many of the new parks in the US and Miller Park is by far the worst. I can understand why you like it though. Next to the Metrodome, it's wonderful. Compared to all the gorgeous parks that have been built - with less money - Miller Park resembles an airplane hangar more than it does a ballpark. You can still build an intimate retract-roof park without making it a monstrosity like Milwaukee did. Examples: Seattle and Houston. I agree here with Julian. Julian's champions for community ownership in the legislature are Sen. Ellen Anderson (D-St. Paul) and Rep. Phyllis Kahn (D-Mpls).

Posted by: Kevin at February 6, 2005 9:47 PM

Omitting a retractable roof is the key to a new ballpark that is "affordable".

Posted by: Jeff at February 7, 2005 12:03 PM

Kevin, I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Miller Park. It's a great stadium, not a monstrosity.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at February 7, 2005 12:40 PM

Anything that has Phyllis Kahn's stamp of approval has my immediate no vote. Phyllis Kahn is simply nuts. Remember it was Kahn who tried to push an amendment that would make it legal for first cousins to marry. Kahn also exposed her true character when she was caught illegally removing Republican literature from the homes of
the residents of New Hope. She's right up there with Martha Robertson, who I also had a lack of respect for and wrote about a long time ago (http://blog.lib.umn.edu/maasx003/Vikings/007442.html).

Anywho, I've not been to Miller. I know it had a bad PR season when it leaked but people who have been there tel me it is wonderful. And on TV, I like the look.

We could always do what Joe Soucheray of 1500-AM has suggested. Build a inexpensive outdoor stadium with no roof. During bad weather, the Twins play in the Dome. Rest of the time play outdoors!

Posted by: Brian Maas at February 7, 2005 3:03 PM

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