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Archive for Sunday, May 19, 2002

Deal reached on Twins ballpark

May 19, 2002

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— The Minnesota Legislature sent Gov. Jesse Ventura a Twins stadium financing plan Saturday night, although leaders of the endangered franchise said they're not sure it will work.

The bill cleared the House 72-61 and the Senate followed shortly after with a 49-18 vote. Ventura hasn't said how he'd treat the bill, although Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock said it generally conforms to the governor's wishes.

It's the furthest the Twins have moved in a stadium quest that began seven years ago. And, if successfully carried out, the proposal might stave off a plan by baseball to eliminate the low-revenue franchise.

But the Twins spent Saturday highlighting their concerns and questioning whether it will result in a new ballpark.

Ralph Strangis, an attorney hired by Twins owner Carl Pohlad to find a new owner, issued a statement before the House vote asking negotiators to return to the bargaining table. He urged them to produce a bill that allows Hennepin County to join Minneapolis in its bid to keep the Twins in that city.

Twins president Jerry Bell testified that two potential buyers, whom he didn't identify, wanted Hennepin County in the mix.

The deal for a $330 million ballpark, which came together early Saturday, requires a $120 million private contribution facilitated by the Twins prior to any bond sale. In addition, the team would pay $10 million a year in rent.

The bill requires interested cities to hold a referendum asking voters to authorize higher restaurant and lodging taxes for debt repayment. Two or more cities can join together, but county participation is prohibited. Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak said that his city is out of the running for the stadium without help from the county.

The Vikings also got a nod in their stadium search. The bill appropriates $500,000 for design work on a joint football stadium the Vikings would share with the University of Minnesota.

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