ST. PAUL -- Turned back in previous attempts to win support for a stadium, Minnesota Twins officials are taking a go-slow approach at the Capitol in one-on-one meetings with top lawmakers and Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Twins President Jerry Bell spoke Wednesday with Ventura to float possible funding ideas, including one that would have team owner Carl Pohlad contribute $150 million to a new ballpark and guarantee repayment of a no-interest state loan of up to $150 million.
Afterward, Bell and Ventura aides said there was no formal plan presented nor any request for the governor to take a position. Bell said his meetings with legislative leaders are largely listening sessions.
"Last time we jumped in the pool without testing the water," he said. "This time we decided it would be a good idea to listen."
Since 1996, the Legislature has repeatedly turned down ballpark proposals that require use of taxpayer money. And there appears to be little appetite for the issue this session, according to some of those who have met with Twins officials.
"The chance of a stadium issue coming forward this session would be a long shot," said House Speaker Steve Sviggum. The Minnesota Vikings have also had preliminary discussions with lawmakers about building a football stadium.
Ventura spokesman John Wodele said the governor was noncommittal during the meeting in his office, but he told Bell that he was willing to listen to new ideas. Ventura seems unlikely to elevate the issue on his agenda as much as his predecessor, Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, a stadium promoter.
"He made it very clear that there isn't going to be a lot of time for him to deal with stadium issues this session," Wodele said.
At least two other groups are putting together stadium plans, including the New Ball Park Inc. panel composed of influential Twin Cities businessmen. Wells Fargo Minnesota Chief Executive Officer Jim Campbell met with Ventura before Bell did, and a stadium was discussed. Star Tribune of Minneapolis publisher John Schueler was in attendance, but he stayed out of the stadium discussions, he and Wodele said.
New Ball Park Inc. is considering the feasibility of building a privately financed ballpark.
But the ideas discussed recently by Bell would require public help. Bell declined to give specifics, but those who have met with him say the Twins plan is built around:
-- The Pohlad contribution, part of which could come from the business community.
-- The loan that would be modeled after the $65 million state loan and grant for the hockey arena built in St. Paul for the Minnesota Wild.
-- Infrastructure and site preparation by the host city, which has not been determined.
-- The premise that Major League Baseball and its players' union will make basic economic changes, including a limit on salaries, during the next labor agreement. Baseball's current economic structure makes it difficult for small-market teams to compete.
St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman said in a prepared statement that he didn't intend to get in a bidding war for the Twins, but that he always has felt that baseball belongs in St. Paul. In 1999, St. Paul voters rejected a sales tax referendum that would have helped build an open-air stadium.
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