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Do winning Twins bode well for a new stadium?

The Minnesota Twins have become overnight sensations in the Twin Cities. Rocketing into first place in the American League Central with their best April in 41 years, the Twins are suddenly a topic of conversation as they haven't been since Kirby ...

The Minnesota Twins have become overnight sensations in the Twin Cities. Rocketing into first place in the American League Central with their best April in 41 years, the Twins are suddenly a topic of conversation as they haven't been since Kirby Puckett retired.
Except in St. Paul.
Over at the Legislature, the Minnesota House of Representatives killed the latest Twins stadium proposal, even though all it asked of the state was a guarantee on an interest-free loan. Talk about a stadium still draws a lot of animosity from most Minnesotans, and it will take more than one good month from the Twins to turn that around.
The Twins and the Vikings both want new stadiums, and neither is making much progress in securing them. With the Twins, the excuse has long been that nobody cares anyway because the team cannot compete with the big-money franchises like the Yankees and the Indians. Why build a stadium for a losing team?
Meanwhile, the Vikings have been winning plenty of games in recent years (before inevitably breaking our hearts in the playoffs), but have gained no greater sentiment for a new ballpark.
The idea of building a playpen for billionaire owners and millionaire ballplayers just doesn't cut it when schools are laying off teachers.
Still, the Twins latest stadium proposal is worth a second look.
Under the proposal, the state would give the Twins a $100 million interest-free loan. The cost to the state would be about $66.5 million in foregone interest, over 20 years.
Meanwhile, Twins owner Carl Pohlad would chip in $150 million, and the remainder would be collected through local taxes in the Twin Cities paid by those who would frequent or benefit from the stadium.
State involvement is much reduced from past proposals. That is the way it should be. The benefit to the average Duluthian of keeping the Twins in Minnesota runs more to having something to watch on TV during the summer besides reruns than it does to providing them with a better experience at the ballpark.
And few Minnesotans will deny that part of life in these parts for 40 years, whether sitting in the cabin by the lake on a quiet summer evening or painting the shed on a weekend afternoon, has been listening to Herb Carneal do the Twins play-by-play on the radio.
From this viewpoint, a new Twins stadium is a much higher priority than a new Vikings stadium. The Vikings play 10 games at home each year. If the stadium lasts 40 years, the cost will still be $1 million per game to build it.
Wherever they play, the Vikings will be on national TV five or six times a year. A person can still be a Viking fan if they play in San Antonio.
The Twins, however, are more ingrained in the fabric of Minnesota life. Charging hotel, bar and ticket taxes in the Twin Cities to pay for the stadium makes some sense. That is where the direct benefit lies. Businesses will survive and thrive as a result of being in the neighborhood around a Twins stadium.
Furthermore, the benefit to the Twin Cities goes beyond billionaire owners and millionaire ballplayers. Having professional sports in a community makes it easier to attract workers to it. While communities without major league sports may be nice places to live, the Twin Cities have an advantage over Omaha, Memphis or Des Moines in attracting workers because they have that many more entertainment opportunities to enhance their way of life.
In a smaller but similar way, Duluth's way of life is enhanced by having the Duluth-Superior Dukes here.
(The Dukes, by the way, are not campaigning for a new stadium, but most of the teams they are playing against have beautiful new playgrounds of their own. Wade Stadium, at the very least, could stand a few improvements.)
Maybe it isn't worth $66 million in unpaid interest over 30 years for Minnesota to keep Major League Baseball here. Don't think for a minute, however, that the state won't fritter several times that much money away on public purposes no more legitimate than a stadium.
In the meantime, enjoy the Twins while they are here. They are making a mockery of the assertion that they cannot compete playing budget ball.
They will never become a dynasty under current circumstances, but by pulling together a group of young players who all blossomed simultaneously, they are proving that they can be competitive with the big money teams.
Even without Kirby.
Even without support in St. Paul.
Tom West is the editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He can be reached by phone at 723-1207 or by e-mail at tom.west@duluth.com

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