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Analyzing How the Twins Got Stadium Funding Passed

22nd May 2006

At 4am, on Sunday morning, the Twins got the vote in the Minnesota Legislature that they had been hoping for, for over a decade.

With that vote a new stadium will be forthcoming for the club, albeit without a roof.

The question is, how did it happen this time around?

While Commissioner Selig said to Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune on Sunday, “I was nervous and we were coming close to the end. And if anybody thinks that was an idle threat, they were kidding themselves,” relocation threats couldn’t have been the overriding factor as the Twins had been here before. After all, Carl Pohlad had even offered up the club for contraction in 2001 when baseball was in a depressed state with relocation markets clamoring for the club. As I wrote prior, there’s no real relocation threat out there at the moment, so relocating the Twins would have been relocating for relocation sake, not into a better condition than the Metrodome for the Twins.

Maybe Selig’s comments were pointed in the direction of South Florida and the Marlins, rather than the Twins. The world may never know.

No, what appears to have happened was two things:

  1. Having the stadium funding bill outside of the referendum process
  2. Having politicians from around the State of Minnesota vote on a tax that was only going effect those in Hennepin Co. (the oft used description on the Sales Tax has been $0.03 on every $20 purchase)

On the latter of these two, looking at the voting results, the majority of legislators in Hennepin Co. voted against the bill’s passage. The swing votes came from outside of Hennepin Co., as well.

The funding deal passed will certainly not go down as the best deal that ever came down the pike for the public. Out of a $522 million deal (which, one might suggest will not be the final figure when all is said and done… the total price tag does have the capacity to move upward), here’s the breakdown:

  • Carl Pohlad and the Twins’ upfront contribution: $130 million
  • Twins contribution to operating expenses annually: $10 million
  • How much the Twins will contribute to the community annually for amateur sports: $250,000
  • Public contribution to the stadium construction: $392 million
  • Who pays for cost overruns on the stadium construction: The Twins
  • Who pays for surrounding infrastructure costs: Hennepin Co. (est. $90 million)
  • How much will the county kick in annually for stadium improvements: $1 million
  • How much to fund the public sports authority that will own the new facility: Unknown

There are other unknowns in these numbers, as well… Who covers operating expenses should the $10 million being offered by the Twins is not sufficient for certain expenditures? Who covers any cost overruns to the infrastructure should it go beyond $90 million? On the latter, one would think that it’s Hennepin Co.

Whatever the case may be, the Twins will now get a facility where they can control all the revenue streams, and yet at the same time, worry about not being able to guarantee ticket revenues due to not having a roof in place, and better yet, not having a roof in place in Minnesota. It’s simply a matter of time before the, “we need funding for a roof” discussion begins.

That’s a topic for another day.

For now, the Twins can look forward to players saying the lost the ball in the sun, not the drab whiteness of the Metrodome. Some politicians may eventually lose their jobs over how they voted. The “stadium issue” will certainly become fodder for the next local election phase.

The passage of the Twins stadium funding, and passage of upgrades to Kauffman Stadium have me wondering: If the Marlins pull off the deal in Hialeah, and the A’s pull off the deal in Fremont, who’s left to ask for new stadiums? Would we finally see an end to the “new stadiums as economic necessities” for a period of time? Will the lack of new stadiums coming online impact the attendance structure of MLB with so many overlapping honeymoon periods being in play the last decade or more?

I’m sure that’s a problem that MLB won’t mind having should all these clubs that have been clamoring for new stadiums wind up getting funded.

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