Ballpark approved without direct state funding
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Twins earned the season's first win the night before they officially take the field. The Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee overwhelmingly approved on a voice vote Monday night a new ballpark in downt...
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Twins earned the season's first win the night before they officially take the field.
The Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee overwhelmingly approved on a voice vote Monday night a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis, without using direct state funding. The hearing was this year's first attempt to build a professional baseball stadium. Jerry Bell, president of the Twins' parent company, said it is the first time in 10 years the club has come to the Legislature not seeking state money.
The Twins and a sales tax increase in Hennepin County would fund the stadium, although state and local governments may need to pay for some related roads and other infrastructure.
People across the state want the stadium, especially Minnesota's elderly, Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, said.
"The biggest share of those seniors in nursing homes know every player by their first name," Vickerman said. "I think we owe it to older people."
"You have to do what is good for the state of Minnesota," Vickerman added.
The proposal by Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, authorizes the $444 million project, with the team to contribute at least $125 million. However, Kelley said, the figures do not include an additional $30 million since the bill was written last year.
Representatives of the Twins and Hennepin County, which negotiated a deal last year, said they have not figured out how to fund the added $30 million. Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat promised to have an answer by the time the bill makes its second -- and final -- Senate committee stop, the Tax Committee.
The Twins open the 2006 season today in Toronto and agreed to pay for any cost overruns.
While the Senate committee dealt with the stadium in two hours, a House committee plans to devote two hearings over two days early next week. The ballpark has support from legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but stadiums traditionally have a tough time getting through the Legislature.
A University of Minnesota football stadium appears en route to passage this legislative session; a Vikings professional football stadium is less likely to be heard until next year.
Bell said rail, bus and highway transportation makes the location ideal.