Legislators should just walk away

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Minnesota lawmakers are apparently prepared to be generous to the Minnesota Twins this year, drawing ever closer to approving a plan which would provide half of the $330 million needed to build a new baseball stadium. That is not enough for the Twins, however. Instead of counting his blessings, Twins owner Carl Pohlad told lawmakers this week that the team doesn’t necessarily want to be responsible for half of the cost.

That maneuver is only a taste of what is to come if lawmakers decide to get the state involved in a stadium-building project.

After years of trying, the Twins have apparently persuaded a majority of lawmakers — and perhaps a majority of Minnesotans -- to buy into a plan in which state bonds would cover the cost of a stadium. There would supposedly be no risk to taxpayers, because the Twins would put $165 million into an interest-earning fund which would produce enough revenue to eventually retire the state’s bond debt.

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Now, though, the Twins are saying that they don’t want to chip in their half.

Pohlad has never lacked nerve. It took a lot to even suggest that one of Minnesota’s wealthiest people deserves taxpayer support to build a new stadium for his profit-making baseball enterprise.

It takes even more to now say that the Twins don’t want to incur any significant costs for the deal. Pohlad’s concern, of course, is that he is trying to sell the team and knows that no ultra-rich prospective buyer would want to be saddled with any responsibility for stadium costs.

Professional sports is built on the assumption that someone else will pay the teams’ bills.

Lawmakers ought to take this week’s Twins maneuvering as a sign of things to come. If the stadium bill passes, there will be plenty of future wrangling and maneuvering to keep the Twins’ costs to a minimum and the taxpayers’ risk to a maximum. The Twins play fun baseball and are off to a good start. But it is time for the legislature to walk away from the bargaining table.