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November 23, 2005

Wow! Lots of stuff to chew on ...

Wow! I leave for Boston for a couple of days and the travesty that is the Twins stadium debacle just explodes with news. Let's get it on!

Today it is being reported that the Florida Marlins will begin exploring a move out of Miami. Of course, the same old cities are trotted out as possible new homes: Las Vegas and Portland to be specific.

If you'll recall, the Marlins had a bill before the Florida legislature that called for a team contribution of upwards of $190 million, almost half of the cost. The Florida House approved the bill, but the Senate balked at a state contriution of $60 million in the form of a sales tax rebate. It is this kind of flat out stupidity from the Florida legislature that has me convinced that no matter how much the Twins offer for a new stadium, our illustrious legislators will tell them to take a hike unless it is 100% of the cost.

According to the article above Portland has already given the Marlins office an exploratory phone call inviting them to consider western Oregon as a new home. Portland has an interesting web site discussing their efforts to build a stadium and land a team. You'll note that in the upper right there are a bunch of articles that highlight the difficulties the Marlins, A's, and Twins are having building new stadiums. It seems Portland won't be picky, they'll take any of our teams. How nice of them. Anyway, they are hot for the Marlins now.

Portland also seems to have a stadium financing plan in place, but it is a very weak plan from what I've read. According to an article in the Oregonian, the financing plan looks like this:

Portland does have the baseball stadium financing bill in place, passed in 2003, that would contribute an estimated $150 million from the income taxes of players and team officials to the construction of a ballpark. There also has been progress on moving the U.S. Post Office from downtown and freeing up what could be the best stadium site -- that could be accomplished within five years, Kanter said.

$150 million? Wow, that is weak. It would appear that Portland is far from ready for this.

That leaves Las Vegas, which Jayson Stark recently listed as the odds-on favorite to land the team:

One baseball man familiar with the situation says there is "no way" Vegas could get a ballpark up and operable before 2010. But since the Marlins have a lease in Florida till then, they could, in theory, stagger through four lame-duck seasons while they're waiting for the moving vans. It's not a perfect situation. But people who know Loria continue to predict that if Vegas builds it, the Marlins will come. ODDS: 2 TO 1.

Stark also writes that Loria considers the Las Vegas market to be a "gold mine" so I look for the biggest push for the Marlins to be towards Sin City.

The big question in all of this, though, is how does this affect the Twins? Is this good news or bad news? Obviously one less city to worry about as a possible future home of the Twins could certainly be looked at as a good thing. However, the way I see it there will be two cities (Portland and Las Vegas) that will now be going ape over trying to land the Marlins. Only one of them will win the team, but they will both do a ton of work trying to land the team. I would wager that the losing city, having worked so hard to land the Marlins, will then make a huge push for the Twins or the A's. And by 2010 the Twins in particular will be willing to listen.

Thankfully, the Twins haven't made any kind of overt threat like the Marlins yet saying they are exploring the possibility of a new home. But I wouldn't be surprised if they do after December 31. Recently I began thinking about just what are the Twins options after Dec. 31 when the Hennepin County plan expires?

I think Major League Baseball and the Twins have a bunch of options: 1) they can threaten a move ala the Marlins, 2) MLB can purchase them ala the Expos, 3) MLB can threaten contraction, 4) the Pohlads can sell the team, or 5) they can keep quiet and realize they are stuck.

Given that the Marlins beat them to the punch, I don't think the Twins will make the same threat to move. At least not this year, or probably even next year or the next. As Stark mentions above (and Jay Weiner mentioned a couple of weeks ago), Las Vegas won't be ready for a new team until at least 2010, and Portland won't be ready for a team ... well ever probably. It was probably a big problem to get the public to pony up $150 million, let alone the $400-$500 million Pohlad will expect to move the team out there. So, I really don't expect the Twins to make any threats to move.

I also strongly don't think MLB will buy the Twins ala the Expos. They don't want that headache again. ESPN reported last week that the Nationals still don't have a stadium deal hammered down (Baseball is balking at Washington DC's request for guaranteed rent, believed to be about $6 million a year. Can you believe it?), they still don't have an owner (about 8 groups are rumored to be ready to pay upwards of $450 million for the team), and they don't even have a budget for next year ready. MLB has made a total mess of this situation and it doesn't look like it will be cleaned up soon. Does MLB want the same situation with the Twins? No, not at all.

And now with the Marlins threatening to move, contraction would appear to be off the table as an option for the Twins. For contraction to work, the Twins would need a dance partner and without the Marlins there would be no one left.

Selling the team also seems to not be an option given that Pohlad has already made it quite clear he doesn't want to sell the team. Plus, who would buy the team? Reggie Jackson has already been proven to be the second coming of Donald Watkins, and what other idiot would want to buy a team without a decent stadium?

That leaves the Twins one option, it would seem, and that is to shut up and do nothing. I suppose they could threaten to move, but where would they move to? Las Vegas will already be courting the Marlins, and Portland is a joke. The Twins will be stuck, and they know it. I can't say for how long, but for the next 4-5 years the Twins have zero options besides staying in Minnesota.

Why am I writing all this? Well, it is my sincere hope that Pohlad realizes that the game is up. It is my sincere hope that he knows he is stuck until at least 2010. Again, he has a choice: he can either sit there and "lose money" every year as he claims, or he can bite the bullet and offer more money.

The Hennepin County plan is a good one. Again, I wonder what would happen if Pohlad cracked open his wallet just a little wider and bumped his contribution to $200 million? Would the legislature throw it back in his face or would they stand up and take notice? Given that in 4-5 years any new stadium plan, any last gasp of an effort, will probably require a $200 million contribution from Pohlad (or probably more). So, why doesn't he "shock the world" and just get this deal done NOW? There is room to negotiate Pohlad! Please, for the love of Pete start thinking about this and make this plan work!

All bets are off after 2010, but I can't see the Twins doing anything but sticking around in our sorry excuse for a stadium for the next 4 to 5 years. Pohlad has got to know this. Sadly, it would appear the Minnesota legislature knows it too. As much as I would love Pohald to "pull an Irsay" as Kevin in Arizona has written, I just don't think it is going to happen.

Posted by snackeru at November 23, 2005 2:49 PM | Stadiums

Comments

If the Marlins leave Miami, Pohlad won't need to pull an Irsay. After Miami loses their team, they'll build a new stadium to lure the Twins to Miami. And after the Twins leave Minnesota, it's too bad, so sad for Minnesota as there won't be any other teams left with unfavorable stadium situations to move and baseball won't expand.

Get in line early for fishing licenses, that's all there will be to do in the summer from now on.

Posted by: kevin in az at November 23, 2005 5:17 PM

Shane-
I read a quote from Mayor elect Chris Coleman in our local neighborhood paper where he said he would never take the deal for St. Paul that Minneapolis has to get the ballpark for the Twins. He went on to say that he would like a deal like the Cardinals in St. Louis where the team paid 80% of stadium costs. Have you wrote about the Cardinals deal already? How much developement rights did they get around the new ballpark? I would love to call Coleman's office with some info that in fact the Cardinals are probably coming out ahead (which I am sure they are) with the developement rights as opposed to paying say 50% of stadium costs
-Jiminstpaul

Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at November 23, 2005 8:01 PM

Is anyone at least a little intrigued that Opat and Hennepin County have been quietly dotting the i's and crossing their t's to the ballpark bill? I think I read something like they had just pushed through the environmental impact portion. Why would Opat being doing all of this work if the deal is dead in principle? Dare I hold out hope that a back door deal is in the works? Pawlenty calls the legislature back after Thanksgiving, people moan and bitch for the day, and they get pre-occupied with X-mas shopping, preparing their lutefisk and hot dish Christmas dinners, ice-fishing, and their beloved and morally reformed 6-6 Vikings. A kid can hope, right?

Posted by: vince at November 23, 2005 9:49 PM

I read the same thing Vince and I just couldn't let it get my hopes up. I was surprised, though, that it seems the Twins are spending $30,000 for nothing. I would like to think something is going on, but we've heard it all before. You know what I'm saying?

Jim, I am intrigued by what you write. I've written about the deal in St. Louis before, but I'm not at all sure about the devlopment rights around the stadium. That is a very interesting question.

People, again I reiterate, the gig is up. Something has got to change in Pohlad's heart (and wallet) or nothing gets done. I think post December 31 is going to be very interesting ...

Posted by: Shane at November 23, 2005 9:58 PM

Kevin in AZ is correct, if Miami leaves, that will be another City that will be gunning for the Twins.

I wouldn't put a whole lot of stock in the County starting the EIS process. The County is going to have to do an EIS anyway, why not get it out of the way now. Also $30,000 is a drop in the bucket in the whole ballpark deal and they will save more than that by doing it now than waiting until all the $$$ are in place. The U of MN is also going through the EIS process for their still unfunded stadium (Final EIS in February).

Finally the St. Louis deal is sweet for the Cardinals. They get acres of prime real estate in downtown St. Louis. They can develop it, sell it, partner with public and private entities. Downtown St. Louis is not the hottest market in the nation, but few people have gone broke holding on to downtown real estate. It's as if the County gave the land surrounding the proposed Twins stadium for the Pohlad's to do what they wanted. Believe me, the Cardinals are not complaining about the fact they are paying 80% of the cost of the stadium.

Posted by: freealonzo at November 25, 2005 1:35 PM

I agree that Miami may try to go for the Twins if they lose the Marlins, but again I say it won't be for 4-5 years at the earliest. So, I ask what will Pohlad do in the mean time? Will he finally offer half, or will he just sit there and sulk? It will be interesting to see.

Posted by: Shane at November 25, 2005 1:50 PM

"I also strongly don't think MLB will buy the Twins ala the Expos. They don't want that headache again."

It's been a headache thus far, but only because MLB insists on making it a very profitable headache. I don't think they'd have a problem with purchasing another team and making that kind of profit again, especially if it means they can avoid the bad PR that would come with contraction

Posted by: spycake at November 29, 2005 1:22 PM

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