ST. PAUL (AP) -- Hopes the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings have for new venues got a boost Tuesday from legislative leaders, who have agreed to form a task force to study stadium financing.
House Speaker Steve Sviggum said a House-Senate stadium study group will convene by September. The task force will prepare recommendations to the 2002 Legislature. The University of Minnesota's athletic needs also will be studied.
Sviggum, who has generally opposed stadium plans containing public subsidies, got the go-ahead to establish the commission Tuesday afternoon from other top House Republicans. Sviggum, of Kenyon, also said that Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe "was very open to it."
Moe, DFL-Erskine, declined to comment.
Key details, including who will serve on the panel, still need to be resolved.
The task force will start with a clean slate and not have any preconceived conclusion, Sviggum said. Its recommendations could include advocating no state action to encouraging private funding to pushing for bills similar to those introduced but not voted on this year.
The Twins sought state help for at least half of a $300 million ballpark; the Vikings wanted a task force to explore ways to finance a $450 million to $500 million stadium it would share with the Gophers.
Twins president Jerry Bell said the team would cooperate with such a study, although he added that the concept has been tried without success before.
"This will be about the 10th one," Bell said.
Bell said while the group will explore all financing options, he doesn't see how a stadium plan without some public money will work.
"The biggest problem is that almost all of the competition in the industry plays in a subsidized facility," he said. "If you're the lone wolf not playing in a subsidized facility you have very big expenses that your other competitors don't have."
Vikings officials have said their plan could benefit from more public discussion, although they remain disappointed that the Legislature failed to approve a study bill in the recent session.
One group that opposes plans for publicly subsidized sports facilities, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, lashed out at Sviggum for agreeing to the task force.
"This is a simply bizarre plan, based on the premise that a bad idea gets better the longer you study it," said David Strom, the group's legislative director. "When will legislators learn that when the public said 'no,' they meant 'no?"'
Sviggum stressed that the stadium would not be a top issue next year, the session immediately preceding a November election in which all 201 seats are up.
"A stadium task force is not, in the realm of other things, a high priority," he said.
Sviggum said he also is discussing joint committees with the Senate that would begin work on the bonding bill, transportation funding and possibly other issues.
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