Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ginning it up 

A Hennepin County judge ruled Monday that the Minnesota Twins can leave the Metrodome in 2007 if they want to.
The ruling came the same day legislative leaders and team officials emerged from a meeting at the governor's residence with no progress toward a new stadium proposal.

While the commission's lawyers said they have not given up their court fight, legislators said the ruling lent urgency to finding a new home for the team.

"I won't say this is a surprise, but it is kind of a big deal," said House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon. "This only adds to the importance of addressing this now. This issue needs to be on the 2006 [legislative] agenda."
So the heat is turned up on the state government to create a new facility that would placate the Twins. My view continues to be that they have no place to go, as Paul White also argues in Sports Weekly.
Only in the last couple of years has the quality of the game caught up with the two expansions of the 1990s.

Just as important, though, we haven't had contraction either. That notion, raised for all the wrong reasons leading up to the 2002 labor negotiations, went away. But the same kinds of threats could play a role in the next talks.

Don't count baseball's stability in its number of teams as any kind of lesson learned. Contraction remains a useful negotiation ploy.
And that threat is far less viable while MLB continues to own the Washington Nationals and not find an owner, which seems unlikely when they can't even get their act together on building the stadium. (I am trying to find details of the deal the DC council passed late last night.) Would they try Charlotte again? Portland and Las Vegas are offered but the former is simply too small to support an MLB franchise and the latter is too attractive to Pete Rose, if you know what I mean. You have to wonder why the Minnesota legislature is in such a hurry to disenfranchise area voters and taxpayers. Yet there they go:

Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat said the ruling "should serve to remind people that there's one less reason for the team to stay here. They don't have a lease. They don't have a commitment for a new ballpark. So I think it would be hard to fault them for looking around."

Opat was an architect of a $478 million county-Twins proposal to build a stadium in Minneapolis' Warehouse District with a countywide sales tax. The county needs legislative authorization for the sales tax, but the Legislature hasn't voted on it. The estimated cost of the proposal has since increased $30 million.

Brian McClung, a spokesman for Gov. Tim Pawlenty said, "What we've been saying all along is it's clear the Twins are not going to stay in the Metrodome, and this obviously reinforces that."

McClung added, "If the public believes the Twins are an amenity that should be kept, then action is going to have to be taken."

...Asked whether the Twins might shell out more to accommodate the rising cost of a new stadium, Twins Sports Inc. President Jerry Bell said, "Probably not."

So we have a sports franchise suing to get out of a lease, increasing pressure on the government to pass a bill that disenfranchises citizens who will pay higher sales taxes, and Bell says he won't pay for cost overruns either? Coming on top of the Vikings' push for a new facility, this legislative session could get very, very expensive.

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