The Minnesota legislature’s conference committee approved a Twins stadium bill this morning, okaying the team’s demand for $373 million in sales-tax money, without the public referendum that is normally required for tax hikes. The committee had earlier in the week killed a bill for a Vikings stadium, effectively reverting things to where they were before all the mishegoss in the state senate began.
If the conference bill is approved by both houses of the legislature this weekend – which is widely expected, though the Minneapolis City Pages wonders if it’s really a slam-dunk in the senate – it would mark the end of one of the longest-running stadium battles in the country. Twins owner Carl Pohlad started stumping for a new home way back in 1995, when the Metrodome was barely into its teens; along the way, he exploited dead children, faced a citizen opposition that flooded the capitol switchboard with record call volume, and threatened to move the team to North Carolina before slinking back to the Twin Cities after Southern voters soundly rejected his stadium plan. The thing about stadium campaigns, though, is that the team only has to win once to be victorious for all time – and so if it took a decade of lobbyists’ fees to gain his $373 million windfall, no doubt that’s a bargain Pohlad will be glad to take.
As for the Vikings, they will doubtless be back next year to demand an equal share of boodle, as the legislature has asked them to refine their stadium plans and resubmit them in 2007. In the meantime, Minnesota residents can rest easy knowing that eleven years of Twins stadium headlines are behind them, and they can look forward to watching their team’s renowned sluggers in the open air for many years to come – at a cost of more than $320 per man, woman and child in Hennepin County, plus whatever Pohlad & Co. decide to charge fans at the ticket office.