After 11 years of impatiently waiting, Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad got his new stadium not with a bang but with a pre-dawn whimper: The Minnesota state senate voted just before 5 am by 34-32 margin to approve the Hennepin County sales tax it had rejected last month, including the provision exempting the Twins from a voter referendum on the sales tax hike. The state house had previously approved the stadium bill late last night, meaning once it’s signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the Twins will have their new stadium, and about $387 million in taxpayer funds to help build it.
“For all of our fans who have stayed with us, through all of the ups and downs of this debate, we are finally going to build a ballpark,” Twins Sports president Jerry Bell said in a statement. “We’re again going to have baseball outdoors, on grass, the way the game was meant to be played.” Of the 34-vote majority that approved the bill in the senate, he added: “Kirby Puckett’s number. How appropriate is that?” (Presumably Bell didn’t mean that for Minnesotans, the stadium bill is like being strangled by an electrical cord.)
Citizens for a Stadium Tax Referendum immediately called on Gov. Pawlenty to veto the bill, noting his campaign pledges to “oppose and veto any all efforts to increase taxes” and to specifically oppose public funding for pro sports facilities. Don’t everybody hold your breath at once.