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February 24, 2006

Spycake was right!

You know, it is not often that I am wrong, but I'd like to think that I am man enough to admit when I am. Two nights ago I wrote a piece that suggested Matt Entenza was playing partisan politics in witholding the results of a survey to gauge support for the Hennepin County ballpark plan. Spycake chastised my carefully crafted work of genius with these words:

But it seems like right now, there's nothing more to these accusations of "political gain" than Steve Sviggum's fear and Shane's lack of information. There's still plenty of time to discuss the stadium reasonably and get Estenza's honest opinion -- the session hasn't even started yet! Let's not rush to conclusions and label people (and whole parties!) political opportunists ...

Ha! I thought. While Spycake might make more sense than he usually he does, his words of wisdom would fall on deaf ears yet again, I decided. "Let's not rush to conclusions ..." Bah! Rushing to conclusions is what I am best at! It is something I take pride in! You can't take that away from me! Then, I read this in today's Shooter column:

Within the past 24 hours, the Twins have heard from the four major political caucus leaders who have reported a positive vote count for a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis without a referendum, as the plan was constructed a year ago. The next step for the Twins is to re-engage with Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the near future. A state legislative vote on a ballpark isn't expected until late April or May.

Although Shooter doesn't spell it out in great detail, I would wager that the four major political caucus leaders would be Sviggum, Dean Johnson, Dick Day, and ... Matt Entenza.

Taking it a step further means that yes: Spycake was right! Oh the humanity! Does this mean that David Wintheiser is sometimes right? No, I don't think we can jump to that conclusion, but my world today has been turned upside down! It is like I am Superman in Bizzaro world! Nothing is as it should be. I should have never got out of bed.

What else could Spycake be right about? Nothing much I would wager ... but I've been proven wrong before.

• And now I would like to explain something to all of my new readers. You aren't going to change my mind. We can debate about things in a civil manner, hopefully, but if you are here just to blather about how much the Twins suck, or the Hennepin County ballpark plan sucks, then you have come to the wrong place. I won't listen to you. In fact, I might even lose respect for you which is sad because I don't even know you. This is not to say that I don't respect anti-ballpark types. If you write something to me in a coherent manner with good reasoning and well crafted sentences I will read what you say and ponder it for a while. Take my good buddy David Wintheiser, for example. For as much pain and suffeiring that he brings me I actually am quite fond of the guy. I wish I had half the writing skills as he does, and I dare say if we ever met we would probably have a good time discussing various topics over a pint of ale. The fact that he is anti-stadium doesn't matter. I welcome his opinion. So, in other words, treat me with respect and I will do the same for you (sometimes).

Also, I thought it might be handy for all the newcomers to read a little bit of where I am coming from. So, without futher ado, here is a list of some of the things I believe:

So, there you have it. Those are just some of the things I believe. You may think I'm wrong, but difference of opinion makes the world go round.

Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by snackeru at February 24, 2006 8:50 AM | Stadiums


Very wise words except for one thing -- Charley Walters. If I had a dollar every time Charley Walters was wrong, I could finance the Twins ballpark.

Posted by: freealonzo at February 24, 2006 9:44 AM

Thanks for the shout-out, Shane. For your sake, I hope Charley Walters is right this time. (And for the sake of us Twins fans who prefer to focus on baseball!)

And although I could argue that there's no true "community" benefit from a sports venue with a $50 average ticket price... I will spare you any rants today.

Posted by: spycake at February 24, 2006 10:36 AM

I disagree with Spycake; it pained me to type that I agreed with him in a previous post! I fully believe that the Twins (or Vikings or any other sports team for that matter) create a sense of community, regardless of the ticket cost or even if someone attends any of the games. I bring up the example of the Southern California Vikings Club: Vikings fans who get together every Sunday during the season and watch the games together. Are you going to try and tell me that they feel no sense of community? When I am discussing spring training with strangers I meet in the mighty (by NoDak standards) Columbia Mall, there has to be a sense of community there, otherwise I wouldn't be conversing with them in the first place. The sense of community is one of the biggest reasons that many of us follow sports teams in the first place. Witness the consoling that always seems to happen between Vikings fans of all different socio-economic backgrounds, relgions, and ethnic make-ups following the end to another Super Bowl-less season. And that community is lost, Spycake, when you save that epic 3 cent tax on your $20 purchase in Hennepin County.

While I strongly (as Shane can attest) despise the very ground that Carl Pohlad walks on, I am more than willing to pay a small tax to help the long term viability of the franchise. While I wish that Pohlad will just break down and build his own stadium, I don't want to lose the team over a couple of cents. Go ahead and call me a sell-out to corporate welfare; I really don't care. I just want to watch the Twins and Vikings.

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at February 24, 2006 11:31 AM


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Leverage For Dummies
by John Brattain
February 24, 2006
I need to vent.

I’m stupid, I freely admit it; guilty as charged … if brains were dynamite, I wouldn’t have enough to blow my nose. I called my blog “Synaptic Flatulence,? and when I was writing for TOTK Sports, my column was entitled “The Village Idiot.?

You get the idea.

But I’m not so dense that I cannot understand the concept of leverage. If a guy holds a loaded gun to my head and demands my wallet, I understand that he has leverage. If my wife asks me to do something and threatens me by withholding something (you figure it out) if I don’t do it, that’s leverage.

I get it.

The reason that I’m coming out of the closet with my mental deficiencies is that it has lost all social stigma. After all, this orientation hasn’t stopped folks from becoming CEO’s of national pastimes, or more importantly elected officials. If I had the spare time and the motivation, I might well organize an “Idiot Pride Day Parade? with colorful participants, such as kids running with scissors, multiple DUI offenders riding in bumper cars, a float with teenagers playing “the choking game,? and Paris Hilton.

I’m sure even some of my fellow parade participants would understand the basic concept of leverage—I mean, Paris Hilton realizes that if she has sexual relations and folks can’t watch it on the Internet, people will forget about her. She understands leverage. The public could care less about what Paris Hilton thinks (insert air quotes here), so to get their attention she, well, does pretty much anything to keep you focused on whatever it is she’s doing.

But I digress.

So if your garden variety dumb-as-a-bag-of-rocks baseball writer understands leverage, why is it so many politicos are oblivious to the concept? What does that say about their level of intelligence (or lack thereof).

My point?

Item one: Twins not bound to play in Metrodome beyond '06. Now some folks think that this gives Carl Pohlad a lot of leverage in his negotiations extortion attempts against the state of Minnesota.

Does it?

If they don’t sign a new lease with the Metrodome, where are they gonna play? Is there any other major league ready stadium in the US. available to play in? What are they going to do? Not play? Go on a 162-game road trip? Move to Montreal? What are the Twins going to do if the city/region/state says no to a new stadium?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s hard to move a major league franchise. One reason for this is simple: let’s assume Washington D.C. was still available and the Expos were owned by Jeffrey Loria and David Samson. Now suppose you’re Carl Pohlad, or David Glass, or Lewis Wolff. Do you vote for their being allowed to relocate? If you do, then you can’t threaten to move there. A big reason why the Expos relocation finally went through is simple: all major league clubs have a stake in the franchise. It was in their financial interests to do so. If Jeffrey Loria moves the Expos to D.C., Carl Pohlad doesn’t see much financial benefit, but he sees a potential financial problem: He loses a viable relocation threat to extort a stadium from his community. However when Carl Pohlad owns a chunk of the Expos … well that’s a whole different situation isn’t it?

It would seem to me that the decision regarding the Twins’ lease gives the region as much leverage as it does Pohlad, because where are they going to play? The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area ranks 14th in the U.S. as a television market; any place they move is going to be lower, which in turn reduces the overall value of MLB television rights—which, by the way, are currently being negotiated. Do you think the other 29 clubs are going to tell Carl Pohlad he can reduce their potential income? Is there currently a major league ready stadium anywhere? Right now the Twins have two viable options: the Metrodome and Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

These same obstacles face the Marlins and the A’s.

There have been overtures by the Marlins to Las Vegas (MLB put a stop to that), Portland, Ore., to which the mayor said “My concern is that Portland is facing a crisis is education … that's my top priority, to find funding for that. And I expressed that today... publicly financed baseball [will] not be coming to Portland on my watch. And that was not a point of discussion today ... I do not want the city of Portland taking out any mortgage on our children's future,? and Charlotte, NC, which would automatically make it the smallest market in MLB—and there‘s no facility to play in.

In short, South Florida is holding the cards. They put over $160 million on the table, which Loria and Samson felt was a little short of what they wanted, but is still over $160 million more than any other region has offered. Best of all they have an interim stadium to play in (the Marlins current home).

What about D.C.? Amazingly, the city offered up a $611 million dollar corporate welfare package, and inexplicably MLB didn’t take the money and run. Even if baseball were to take D.C. to arbitration and win, they would not be awarded over $611 million, and it would leave the stadium question unresolved.

For some teams searching for a new stadium, any new location is going to be a step down in market size (including TV) and the number of corporations available to lease luxury suites and club seating (the real motivation in wanting new stadiums). On top of that, we have a lot more entertainment options than there were even 30 years ago, and a team moving into a new market has to deal with that [once the initial novelty wears off], whereas in their current locales, major league baseball teams are already a part of the local entertainment scene.

In short, it would take a lot of work to build up a new market. They would need to succeed there. Just look at how things have fallen off in baseball-mad Colorado due to the team’s ineptitude.

Put simply—most team’s looking for a new stadium are probably in their ideal location right now.

In other words, there’s no reason for regions to give in to their team’s blackmail attempts. A new stadium has no discernible positive impact on a region’s economy and their team’s really don’t have realistic options either in the short term or the long term.

Bottom line: they have leverage.

So if they want a new stadium, tell ‘em to build in themselves and if they’re nice maybe they‘ll chip in some infrastructure costs and maybe a tax break or two.

So if David Samson comes calling, just …
John Brattain's work has been featured at About.com, MLBtalk, Yankees.com, Replacement Level Yankee Weblog, TOTK.com, Bootleg Sports, and Baseball Prospectus. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.

Posted by: Great article at February 24, 2006 12:54 PM

highlight from the article:

In other words, there’s no reason for regions to give in to their team’s blackmail attempts. A new stadium has no discernible positive impact on a region’s economy and their team’s really don’t have realistic options either in the short term or the long term.

Bottom line: they have leverage.

So if they want a new stadium, tell ‘em to build in themselves and if they’re nice maybe they‘ll chip in some infrastructure costs and maybe a tax break or two.

Posted by: highlight at February 24, 2006 12:56 PM

Fair enough -- there are community points to be scored by a sports team. But attending pro sports, at least in the sense that communities have been doing so for a hundred years, is quickly becoming a difficult task. Arenas and stadiums have become corporate playgrounds, which is why it's odd that communities still have to build and own them. I guess this is the price we pay to keep the teams, but I'd rather find a way for communities to keep the teams AND allow members of the community -- especially low-income families -- to actually attend and enjoy the so-called "public" structure!

In that sense, the Twins are still the best ticket in town (I love the right field cheap seats) but I fear this may erode with the new stadium (although the Twins say it's necessary for the fan's benefit!). And I've already long given up trying to attend Wild and Wolves games. For some people, they can still make pro sports fandom a priority and budget accordingly, but remember a lot of people don't have that luxury.

And I don't give two marlars about the 3 cent tax, so don't even mention that to me. I don't mind public financing one bit, but I'd like to see a more progressive ballpark plan than the standard HOK fare. You should read the book "Stadium Games" by Jay Weiner (Strib writer) -- I think he presents a great vision for what a community stadium should be like.

Sorry to hijack your happy day, Shane. The way you plug "outdoor baseball" and "community" really gets my goat, I guess. I hope you get your new stadium.

Posted by: spycake at February 24, 2006 1:00 PM

I guess tailgating is merely a gathering of individualistic nilhists hell bent on creating solitary nirvana. Damn those tailgating hermits who fail to create a sense of “community?! Damn them all to Hell!

Posted by: MrCheerOrDIe at February 24, 2006 2:25 PM

I don't mind tailgating, COD. But it does little to help you actually get into the stadium (except you do save on concession costs by eating before the game!). And the new Twins stadium plan doesn't provide surface lots for tailgating anyway. As for the Vikings stadium... well, we should let Shane deal with one cause at a time!

It's pretty much an indisputable fact that ticket prices have soared in recent decades, and new stadiums are pushing upper decks higher and further back (or eliminating them altogether) to make room for more levels of club seats and luxury boxes. Why a "community" would have any interest in financing this "advancement" in stadium design, I don't know.

(By the way, I did NOT post that lengthy article above, in case anybody was wondering. I was typing my earlier comment while it was posted.)

Posted by: spycake at February 24, 2006 4:54 PM

It's not the community's problem. The Twins can pay for their own stadium. The only ones who are whining are fans who will have nothing to do with their spare time (do they even have jobs?) when the Twins leave. Community?? Yeah right!

Posted by: workforachange at February 25, 2006 12:04 AM

Wow! I must be doing something wrong. I follow (in no particular order) the Vikings, Twins, Hoosiers, Gophers, Fighting Sioux, and I still mange to have a full time job, a wife, and three kids. I guess that I shouldn't have any "spare time," so I have no idea how I manage to (in no particular order) golf, read, play with my kids, attend church services, spend time with family and friends, etc. I had no idea that I was such a whining fan! Thanks, workforachange, for showing me the error of my ways. Your outstanding contributions to the stadium debate can not be underestimated.

Curt in Grand Forks (with tongue planted firmly in cheek)

Posted by: Curt Hanson at February 27, 2006 8:16 AM

You seem to be full of yourself, Curt. You don't do anything that millions of other people on this planet don't do, so get over it.

You people need to stop begging for money for a stadium. If you want it that badly, convince Pohlad to raise ticket prices and then buy tickets at the higher price. That's how the economy works. Don't expect others to pay for your hobbies. Otherwise, you can expect to see the Twins leave MN.

Posted by: WhoCares? at February 27, 2006 8:29 AM

Hey, let's tone down this hateful rhetoric. If you want to be a jerk about this stay at the Strib message boards. I'm looking for helpful debate, not name calling.

Posted by: Shane at February 27, 2006 8:32 AM

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