April 29, 2005
Well, it has been a busy week concerning my favorite topic, but before we delve into that again, I invite you to leave the Greet Machine (that's right, go away!) and visit Stick and Ball Guy for a "marital advice" edition of Pepper! Today, I am a participant in Pepper! along with Cheesehead Craig of the Oracle of Cheese and Mr. Cheer or Die of the Viking Underground. SBG has some questions for us regarding his upcoming wedding. I guarantee a fun time for all!
Now back to business. I don't know how many of you have been keeping track of Pawlenty's plan for a metro-area casino, but it appears that his scheme will not be happening, at least not this year. I'm a little torn by this one. On the one hand I am not in favor of expanding gambling, especially in the metro-area. I think it works great for the Native American tribes and I like the fact that gambling is limited to their governance. On the other hand, either we have gambling in this state or we don't. And we definitely have gambling. It is a very lucrative business and the state could certainly make some money from getting involved. Not to mention Pawlenty's "Community Assets Account."
The "Community Assets Account" is Pawlenty's plan to set aside some of the state's gambling proceeds for public works projects like zoos, or planetariums, or, of course, stadiums. In fact, I would guess that the only reason this Account is being created is to take care of the state's contribution for potential stadiums that may be built.
How much are we talking about though? According to a StarTrib article from last week, the most recent casino plan (with two casinos being built at Canterbury Park) would bring in $164 million, at least, to the state. And according to the House version of this casino bill:
Sec. 3. [297A.941] [GAMING FACILITY PROCEEDS FUND.]
33.28 A gaming facility proceeds fund is established in the state
33.29 treasury, consisting of money deposited in the fund under
33.30 section 297A.94, paragraph (g), and any other money credited to
33.31 the fund by law. Money in the fund is appropriated as follows:
33.32 (1) ten percent of the receipts is annually appropriated to
33.33 the community assets account; and
33.34 (2) the remaining 90 percent of the receipts shall be
33.35 transferred to the general fund.
33.36 Sec. 4. [297A.942] [COMMUNITY ASSETS ACCOUNT.]
34.1 A community assets account is established in the state
34.2 treasury, consisting of money deposited in the account under
34.3 section 297A.941 and interest earned thereon. Money in the
34.4 account may be spent, as appropriated by law, to help finance
34.5 capital projects that provide for facilities which provide a
34.6 public benefit to the state and local communities. Projects
34.7 that may be financed through an appropriation from this account
34.8 include, but are not limited to, the following: stadiums and
34.9 other athletic facilities for professional, college, and amateur
34.10 sports; museums, theaters, and other facilities for the arts;
34.11 recreational facilities; planetariums; and zoos.
So, 10% of $164 million would be $16.4 million. I don't expect that all of that would go towards stadium construction, but I do expect that most of it would.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I am of the opinion that this may be the only way the state will contribute to a new Vikings stadium. The Twins have tried for years and years to get the state to contribute to their stadium, and I think we have all seen that it just can't be done. I'm sure that the Vikings are praying that the Twins stadium deal goes through not only because it means the legislature can finally just focus on the Vikes, but also because with the Twins out of the picture the Vikings would get the full stadium share of this Community Assets Account. Again, it may be the only way that the state contributes to a Vikings stadium project.
So, I will keep a close eye on casino/racino developments. It may not happen this year, but I think Pawlenty is determined to see it happen. And if it does and the Twins are out of the picture due to approval of the Hennepin County plan (or contraction) Vikings fans everywhere should see this as a good sign.
And speaking of contraction, I'm sure you all know that the current MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire this December. One of the agreements of this CBA was that the player's union can't interfere with MLB concerning contraction attempts after 2005. Given the difficulty the Twins have had (and are going to have, make no mistake) with their stadium efforts, and the difficulties the Florida Marlins have had, I personally think contraction will be a real threat again if a new Twins or Marlins stadium isn't approved this legislative session.
In a recent interview with Jerry Bell on the Twins website, Bell himself suggests that this plan may be the Twins last gasp:
MLB.com: Nobody wants to make threats, but Jim Pohlad did say that if this proposal isn't accepted, he can't imagine what would be. Is it fair to say that this is the team's last chance to get a new ballpark built?
JB: I agree with Jim. If we can't do this, then I can't imagine what it would be.
And I don't like to make threats either, but I can't help but think this is it. I know we've heard this all before, but contraction was real back in 2002. If not for Judge Harry Crump (God bless him!) we would not even be having this discussion right now. If the Hennepin County deal doesn't go through, don't expect the Twins to sign another lease at the Dome for next season. And without that, and without resistance from the player's union, there will be nothing to stop MLB from carrying through on its 2002 contraction plan.
Seriously, write your representatives and senators today! You can make a difference! Let me close by sending a shout out to Bob! Thanks for the email last night! I have updated the Voter's Guide!
Posted by snackeru at April 29, 2005 7:06 AM | Stadiums
Do you know how all the other bills are progressing that take precedent over the stadium? Education, transportation, etc. I can't find any news on them in the trib or the pipress. Are either close to being resolved. Also, is the Hennepin Commission really as set in stone at 4-3 pro-stadium as everyone seems to assume, or could there be a surprise Tuesday? Thanks Shane, you are the best.
Posted by: Vince at April 29, 2005 12:56 PM
Just in case any of you want to get into contact with your Hennepin Co. Commissioner here's how to find out whose is yours. Lets not rely too heavily on the 4-3 straw vote reported in the papers. Let 'em know that you want a stadium.
Posted by: Vince at April 29, 2005 3:49 PM
Vince, thanks for the comments. First of all, I don't know exactly where the bills are, but I know all are being debated in both chambers right now. I will endeavor to do some research as it is a good question.
I do believe the Hennepin County Commissioners have at least 4 votes in favor of the stadium plan. In fact, I think my own commissioner may be considering voting for. I could be wrong, but she hasn't been a vocal opponent. I have written her already to try to persuade her to make the right decision.
And this weekend I will post the link to the rest of the commissioners. Great idea.
We'll keep on fighting the good fight. Have you written Abrams and Bellanger yet?
Posted by: Shane at April 29, 2005 9:56 PM
No, not yet, I figured that once it got out of the commission I would start working on those two. Thanks for your help.
Posted by: Vince at April 30, 2005 2:19 PM
I'm so ready for all new stadiums for Twins, Vikings, Gophers, who else needs one? so that we can stop all the talk about stadiums and get on with everything else.
I think the people of Minnesota should have a rally infront of the State Capitol so they can see all the people who support new stadiums.
Vote already, we want our stadiums.
Posted by: Anonymous at May 5, 2005 8:41 PM