The Proposed Twins Park: Stadium or Ball Mall?

Take Me Out to the Strip Mall...

HOW FITTING THAT the Minnesota Twins chose the Mall of America as the site for the public unveiling of blueprints for a proposed baseball stadium. In keeping with the Twins' desire for a "themed environment where the ballgame is the centerpiece of a day's activities," the $350 million facility will sport its own shopping center. In addition to a full-service restaurant and bar, the complex will boast entertainment facilities for kids, shops selling sports regalia, food and drink concessions, and a Minnesota Baseball Hall of Fame Museum.

Hey--wait a minute. The club and its biggest booster, Governor Arne Carlson, have repeatedly justified a publicly funded stadium by claiming it would be a catalyst for the economic redevelopment of downtown Minneapolis. A number of economists have countered that the economic spillover from sports stadiums is insignificant; throw a mall into that picture and a new ballpark complex could actually thwart urban revitalization efforts. First, such a stadium would bring people downtown to spend a day inside its four walls--not to patronize local bars, restaurants, and stores, increasing the tax base and justifying the plunder of the public coffers for its construction. So argues Stanford University sports economist Roger Noll. The mall-within-a-stadium concept could be bad for downtown even if there's no public subsidy, he adds, if it succeeds in drawing traffic away from other downtown businesses. "There is this tendency," he notes, "for stadiums to become more and more like shopping centers and at the same time more and more isolated from the community."

SHOW US THE MONEY

IF THE STADIUM is ever built, St. Paul officials are privately joking, the Twins should be made to share a riverfront sports/industrial park with a hockey arena and a taxpayer-financed office tower for Lawson Software, the northeast Minneapolis company that recently found itself in the middle of a bidding war between the twin towns. And it seems that no matter where Lawson lands, taxpayers will ante up.

It's not clear who made the first move, but at some point St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman offered to use city bond money to level and rebuild a prime block in his downtown, which the fast-growing software outfit would rent at a subsidized rate for 15 years. Minneapolis got wind of the move and offered Lawson space in any one of three possible downtown Minneapolis developments. Next, Minneapolis City Council Member Walt Dziedizc announced that he was spiking his resolution in favor of acquiring the Hartford Whalers for St. Paul. And St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune, facing Coleman in this year's mayoral contest, chimed in on Minneapolis's side. The St. Paul deal would cost taxpayers $24 million, he said, because property taxes on the new building would pay off construction debt, not go into city coffers.

The upshot? "In Minneapolis," says one St. Paul staffer, "[Lawson] would be a small fish in a big office tower. Here, they might even get the building named after them."

LEGISLATING LICORICE

IF TWO STATE representatives have their way, Minnesota will soon have a new state symbol--the licorice stick. Representatives Roxann Daggett (R-Frazee) and Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) have introduced a bill to make licorice the official state candy of Minnesota, thus conjoining it with such other edible emblems as the blueberry muffin, the walleye, and the loon. Nornes says the idea came from the manager of a Kenny's Candy plant in his district. "It is not a frivolous activity," the first-termer insists. "Licorice is actually a Minnesota product, because it's made from corn grown in Minnesota and wheat grown in Minnesota. So it's actually a farm product." And the legislation has other advantages: "We're not raising taxes with it. We're not taking away anybody's benefits. We're not doing normal types of things that you think the Legislature is going to enact. If it doesn't go any further, at least people will be aware that it's a good snack."

LICENSE TO HEAL

SOME STATE LAWMAKERS are trying to create an official seal of approval for people like Helen Healy, the naturopath whose St. Paul practice the state Attorney General sought to shut down last year ("Bad Medicine," CP 7/17/96). Under current state law, anyone who counsels people about their health and takes money for it theoretically practices medicine without a license. State Reps. Linda Wejcman and Karen Clark, both Minneapolis DFLers, want Minnesota to join twelve other states that issue licenses for qualifying naturopaths; their bill (H.F. 396) was introduced Monday. CP

PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Week in History--stories from the St. Paul Pioneer Press from February 1937:

CHICAGO WARDEN PLANS TO FILM

ELECTROCUTION

Chicago, Feb. 4.--(AP) Warden Frank Sain of the Cook county jail disclosed today he was considering the feasibility of taking motion pictures of an electrocution. The films--if taken--would be shown before prisoners in an attempt to influence them to renounce criminal careers.

The warden termed the project a "great crime deterrent" but said Sheriff John Toman would have to decide whether the movies would be made. Toman was out of the city. Five persons are scheduled to die in the electric chair at the jail. They are Mrs. Mildred Bolton, Joseph Rappaport, Peter Chrisoulas, Corydon A. Black and Rufo Swain, a Negro.

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