MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Twins would play in Minnesota at least through the 2003 season under a proposed lawsuit settlement, according to a published report.
Under the plan, the team would not be on baseball's list of teams to be eliminated for the 2003 season, the Star Tribune reported Wednesday, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the proposed settlement.
Attorneys for the Twins, Major League Baseball and the Metropolitan Sports Facility Commission agreed to recommend the settlement to their clients, significantly increasing the likelihood that it will be approved.
The commission, which operates the Metrodome, filed a lawsuit in November to force the Twins to stay in Minnesota and honor their lease. The main claim is that baseball, by threatening to disband the Twins, illegally interfered with the commission's ability to get a long-term lease with the team.
Both sides were expected to vote on the settlement Wednesday, but the deal is not considered a slam dunk.
The deal was reached in private Tuesday in the courtroom of Hennepin County District Judge Harry Crump, who asked attorneys for all parties involved to work out a settlement.
Under the proposed deal, the commission would still have the option of filing a new lawsuit to prevent the Twins from leaving or being disbanded before the 2004 season.
If the commission approves the deal, baseball attorneys will present the proposed settlement to the owners, who are meeting in Chicago.
Joe Anthony, a Minneapolis attorney representing Major League Baseball, declined to discuss the deal, but said: "Major League Baseball is enthusiastic about the community's efforts to build a stadium to make the Twins a viable franchise. ... Judge Crump did an excellent job of bringing the parties together to address a difficult issue."
Under the proposed agreement, the commission's lawsuit would be dismissed with prejudice against the Twins, which means the team is released from claims made by the commission. However, the lawsuit would be dismissed without prejudice against Major League Baseball, meaning those claims could be renewed against the owners if the commission decides to file another lawsuit.
Also, the commission agreed that it would not sue Major League Baseball during the 2002 and 2003 seasons other than to enforce the Twins' obligation to play in those two years.
If the lawsuit is dropped, the commission's demands for documents from the team and from Major League Baseball also would be dropped. The commission had been seeking papers on the internal plans for baseball to eliminate teams.
Gov. Jesse Ventura this month signed a bill that arranges financing for a $330 million stadium for the Twins. But a host community still must be found for the stadium.
St. Paul plans a bid for the team, but if taxpayers don't approve a referendum, the proposed settlement could mean the legislation is reopened in the 2003 session, said Sen. Dean Johnson, one of the sponsors.
"I'm not totally convinced that the bill that we passed ... will be the final product," said Johnson, DFL-Willmar. "People have a new badge of courage after the election as opposed to prior to the election."
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