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Sunday, February 11, 2007

More Press on the Stadium Boondoggle

Legislators not looking favorably on another bill (St Paul Pioneer Press):

Since the Twins have committed $130 million already for the project, to supplement the public money collected through a Hennepin County sales tax, Bell said he doubted the team would offer to pay more to help secure the land.

"Not much, anyway," he said. "But we haven't ruled anything out."

County Commissioner Randy Johnson said he figures there is now less than a 50-50 chance that the ballpark will be built on the current site.

He said there are several other sites that could work — including spots in the suburbs or near the Metrodome. He declined to be more specific.

For now, the county will delay its scheduled Feb. 27 votes on major issues involving the ballpark's land acquisition, a development agreement with the Twins, and approval of contracts with the architect and the builder, Opat said.

State lawmakers said Friday it's questionable whether the Twins would get a good reception at the Capitol if they were to come back with a different ballpark proposal.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said the public wants the Legislature to spend its time on other issues, such as the state budget and health care, instead of revisiting the ballpark issue.

"It's important for all the parties to sit down and get the work done,'' Kelliher said.

The assistant majority leader of the Minnesota Senate said the apparent stalemate might simply reflect differences that commonly occur during real estate deals. "There are always snags,'' said Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, adding that the parties' public postures may not reflect what's being said privately.

The most important thing, she said, is for the project to remain on schedule.

But that would mean workers would break ground on the project next month.

"Not likely," Opat said.

Sid Hartman isn't happy.

No doubt Hines is gambling that the Pohlads, who own the Twins, are so eager to get that ballpark built that they will pay what the owners are demanding -- reportedly in excess of $50 million -- and not the $13.5 million at which it has been appraised.

I'm told that this will not happen. The Pohlads have agreed to contribute $100 million to the entire project. That is the limit.

Had the new Guthrie Theater been built where it should have been, adjacent to the Shubert Theater on Hennepin Avenue, the choice site on the river for the ballpark would have been available.

So the stadium problem that looked like it was two-thirds settled when the Legislature voted to back projects for the Gophers and Twins last year remains unsolved.

The Gophers are making progress. But they haven't dug a hole yet. And when former Vikings owner Red McCombs withdrew as a partner with the university, one of his reasons was that the site on the campus was so polluted that it would cost millions more to build there.

Meanwhile, the promise of Gov. Tim Pawlenty that a Vikings stadium would be discussed and voted on in the 2007 session is not happening.

I have a feeling that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his family, who guaranteed they would never move the team, are having second thoughts now that the great governor has gone back on his promises. Don't forget that the lease on the Metrodome runs out in 2011.

Governor Tim Pawlenty of Tax Increases supported the Twins Stadium tax because it fell on Minneapolis residents - most of whom voted against him.

Nick Coleman has a good column on the topic.

Let's look at the replay: The Minnesota Twins, abetted by a few schemers in elective office, managed last year to pass a $522-million stadium plan in the Legislature. They succeeded, after years of utter failure, because they hit on two brilliant new tactics:

1) Unveiling the plan just days before the county initially approved it, shortening the chances for opposition to be mounted in a timely fashion; and 2) Shifting the entire tax burden onto the citizens of one county (Hennepin), thus making it easy for all legislators not from that county to shrug their shoulders and vote yes.

Voila! New ballpark to open in 2010!

Or maybe not.

What was forgotten in the rush that put the cart before the horse was an effort to agree on the cost of acquiring the land from owners who now find themselves sitting pretty: New stadium's coming, Momma! And they need our corn fields!


So now there is an impasse between the contractors and corn farmers over how much the cornfields (parking lots, actually) are worth.

Ballpark booster, Shane Nakeru isn't happy.