Monday, August 4, 1997


The rumor swirling around the elections biz this past week was that at the upcoming special session it will be decided to hold a statewide referendum election this November to vote on stadium financing issues. For those of you who haven't figured it out yet, the Twins need a new stadium the Vikings most certainly do not.

The Metrodome was built because the Vikings threatened to move to Memphis. It was built specifically for football with baseball seemingly an afterthought. The Vikings get all the suite money. Twins fans get seats that don't even face home plate, and a plastic sanitized bastardized version of the game of baseball. The Vikings signed a thirty year lease as part of the deal to alleviate fears that they would one day again threaten to leave. That they are now again threatening to do so despite that lease demonstrates the ethics of that organization. The Twins made no such similar deal. They were a dying franchise and figured their best means of survival was to follow the football team downtown. And while it's damn near impossible to develop a rational argument to devote public money to build a stadium for the primary benefit of a billionaire who has thus far offered next to nothing to help out, to a team that has been decidedly difficult to watch the past few seasons, in a sport that has been severely mismanaged and is in a state of disturbing disarray, the best I can do is say this state would truly suck without major league baseball.

Like anywhere else, Minnesota is its history. From Paul Bunyon to Hubert Humphrey, from Elmer to Richard Dean and Loni Anderson, from Cedric Adams to Barbara Carlson, from Bob Dylan to Prince, from the two fat guys shaking hands across the river to Oliva and Killebrew and Puckett and Hrbek, the storied traditions of the state make us who we are. To lose the Twins would mean a tear in the fabric of the state and would be a major loss. No, the quality of life would not suffer, but the identity of the state would. You take something for granted and one day you turn around and you realize it's no longer there and you feel for the first time how much you miss it and by then it's too late to do anything about it.

So we should build the baseball only stadium (preferably in downtown St. Paul by the riverfront) for $300 million, give the Twins all the parking and concession money (it is there job to bring people to the park by providing competitive entertainment). As part of the deal we make them sign a thirty year lease that binds them to Minnesota for that time. We charge them five million per year for that thirty year period so that by the end of the agreement they are paying half of what it originally cost to build the stadium. The interest lost is more than made up by the revitalization they will provide to the downtown St. Paul area.

This, of course, will not happen and the reason the legislature wants to hold the election is so they aren't held responsible for when the Twins do leave. So one of the things that makes this place a little bit better than most places will be gone. And all the people complaining that the money should be spent to fix the social ills of our state will wake up to find that those social ills are still as bad as ever. If this is solely about money, and that is how the issue has been framed thus far, the stadium should not be built. But although it is becoming more and more difficult to see, there are things in life money can't measure.

We sometimes do things because of the pure joy. During the recent heat spell I enjoyed a pint of cookie dough ice cream. Man, that cream was tasty. After I was finished I looked at the nutritional facts on the carton. My little treat had filled me with 28% of my daily recommended dose of cholesterol. For a guy who had his cholesterol measured in the stratosphere not too long ago, this wasn't exactly the wisest move. But for the brief pleasure and taste sensation, a little more blockage of the arteries was worth it.

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