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April 7, 2005

Let's get down to business

There has been so much stadium news in the past few days that I barely know where to start, so let's just plow in on some of the news that I have found most interesting. It appears that St. Paul is making a big push for a new Twins stadium if all the articles coming out of the Pioneer Press are any indication. In between the blah, blah, blah that we've all become accustomed to from stadium pundits (including myself) was this article from Sunday's paper which highlighted a very intersting stadium funding proposal:

A stadium without a retractable roof (more on this in a bit) would cost about $450 million, if construction can start by next spring.

If the state contributed $100 million toward the project, it could pay its share with an estimated $7 million in additional annual sales taxes that would be attributable to the stadium without dipping into the general fund or raising taxes. This should appeal to the governor, who has taken a pledge to hold the line on taxes.

That leaves $350 million, to be split evenly by St. Paul and the Twins, which would benefit most directly from a new stadium in downtown St. Paul.

St. Paul's share would be covered by a 2 percent bar and restaurant tax (less than the 3 percent the city had ealier considered), along with the extension of the downtown TIF district and some incremental parking revenue.

As for the Twins (which the article pegs for $175 million later on), how they come up with their share is up to them, but it will require more out-of-pocket than its owners have been willing to part with in previous discussions.

Even if the Twins are able to fashion a deal with Hennepin County that would allow the owners to put up a substantially smaller pile of cash than the host community, it is highly unlikely that such an unfair deal would make it through a skeptical Legislature. Nor should it.

Another possibility is that the St. Paul business community might be able to pony up some cash, perhaps as much as $25 million, which could be used to reduce the city's and Twins' shares.

There are certainly some flaws with this plan, but for the most part it is in line with what I have been suggesting for a few months now. Of course, I am mainly referring to a bigger contribution from the Twins. $175 million is certainly doable, and I would think that an even larger contribution (ala Florida) would have an even greater impact, but $175 million is certainly a good place to start. The $100 million from the state (at $7 million per year? Hmmm ... Maybe less?) is prime for Pawlenty's TIF financing plan of last year. This TIF scheme was estimated to generate $7.5 million a year so it fits within the parameters of this plan.

And what do all of you think about the lack of a retractable roof? I must admit I would prefer one, but I just don't care anymore. If Detroit can play in a stadium without a roof, if Boston can do it too, then I think the Twins should be able to also. Boston gets more rain than the Twin Cities does. If we can hold costs down without a roof, then I say let's go with that plan.

The big if of this plan is the 2% tax on St. Paul restaurants and bars. Personally, I think given the Twins phenomenal TV numbers and the resurgence of Twins fans all over the country, I think the time is right for a referendum if not in Minneapolis then definitely in St. Paul. I truly feel a referendum on a 2% tax in St. Paul would pass. The Pioneer Press article above states, "There is political will, strong community support and an ideal location in downtown St. Paul. Let's stop talking and get a deal done." Well said. Again, I feel this state is ripe for action right now. It is time to finally put this behind us.

And it appears I'm not alone in this sentiment. At the beginning of the legistlative session Steve Sviggum made some bold promises concerning getting at least a Twins bill pushed through the legislature this year. Well, he isn't making any promises today, but he is still optimistic, and thankfully so is Dean Johnson, the Senate majority leader. According to Sid Hartman today, both Johnson and Sviggum are optimistic of "passing a baseball stadium bill once they get education, health care and other such important legislation passed this session." Hmmm ... that sounds like a tall order, but even Pohlad was more optimistic after hearing this news. And I don't know why Sid keeps doing this, but he replayed Pohlad's most tired quote:

"I don't know if I can operate beyond this year if something positive isn't developed about a stadium," Pohlad said after listening to Swiggum and Johnson. "We can't keep on losing money."

You know, I don't even know what to make of statements like this anymore. I just can't believe Pohlad is losing money especially considering the Twins won't let anyone see the books.

Pohlad was also hush-hush about the amount of money he would contribute to a stadium but he did say he would make a contribution. That is big of him. Here is what I hope the legislature does, though. I hope they just pass a bill, like the one above that the Pioneer Press concocted for example, that just says the Twins will contribute $175 million. Ask the Twins what they'd be willing to contribute, sure, but if it doesn't meet the requirements for getting a bill passed this session, screw their measly $120 million contribution. Make it $175 million and dare the Twins to turn it down. I am of the opinion that Pohlad and the Twins will whine and complain, but eventually they will realize this is the best they are going to get, take the deal, and start digging. Man, wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?

Anyhoo, that is all I've got for today. Tomorrow I'll take a look at some of the Viking stadium news that we've been hearing about recently. As you might expect, I've got some strong opinions about that too.

Posted by snackeru at April 7, 2005 8:30 AM | Stadiums

Comments

How about the proposal for public ownership discussed in yesterday's trib article? Any idea what the proposal is and why Pohlad would take it?

Posted by: Vince at April 7, 2005 9:12 AM

I miss the bunny blog already.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at April 7, 2005 12:37 PM

Yes, I miss the bunnies too. I hope one day I can actually write about bunnies because this stadium crap is over. Say a prayer for me tonight...

Posted by: Shane at April 7, 2005 1:28 PM

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