Suicide Squeeze

"You really can't fault Pohlad. He's a businessman, and he's not in business to lose money. On the other hand, owners have screwed themselves. It costs a family of four over $100 to go to a game. As far as staying home and watching the game on TV, half of the time, the Vikes aren't on.

"Anyway, football is football. People will watch just about any game. And gamblers will always find something to bet on." (Egan)

BUD ROWELL, TOM MINKS, JEROME NYQUIST, GLORIA WESTPHALL
   bus drivers

Perhaps the whole debate about how to finance a new Twins stadium would have been settled by now had legislators been privy to the conversation in the break room at the Metro Transit's Fifth Street Garage. "I can tell you how they can build that stadium," driver Bud Rowell says. "The first way is to use some of that $2 billion surplus they've got in the coffin and then replace it as the stadium makes money. Or do like they did for the flood victims and get Pohlad on the air saying, 'Here's my $11 million,' and Kirby can donate $1 million, and in two weeks they'll have their money. Heck, I'll send 'em $100."

While stadium opponents have been vocal, Rowell says, supporters have been quiet, causing the idea to be unjustly maligned. "What people don't understand is that we're not building it for the Twins but for the people of Minnesota. If you want baseball, then you have to pay for it."

Across the room, however, driver Tom Minks says he's stopped paying attention to sports. "With the money they make it's a slap in the face to the working man. Look what we had to do a few years ago--go on strike. It's an insult."

Besides, says Gloria Westphall, who has driven Route 16 past the Dome on game days, game-goers almost never ride the bus: They drive themselves, causing traffic backups all the way to the river. (Kelly Wittman)

MICHAEL DRIVAS
   comic-book
  seller

You'd think that operating on Nicollet Mall, where small shops are soon to be displaced by Target and office towers, would pit an independent-business owner against all government-sponsored construction projects. That is, until you have all the facts: Michael Drivas, the proprietor of Big Brain Comics, is "a huge, sick football fan. A Packers fan." Thus, he says, he sympathizes with Minnesota fans who want to keep their teams.

But Drivas's pity is tempered with pragmatism. "I don't really think the Twins will go anywhere. When I lived in San Francisco, they held five different referendums and the Giants never left." His main concern is how a stadium will be funded. "They just couldn't increase the downtown sales tax any further. I think if you own a business, and it requires a venue, you have to figure that into your cost of business. I wouldn't mind if the stadium was built, but we don't have to give away the farm." (Christina Schmitt)

MISS RICHFIELD
   diva

"They're not going to leave, are they?" says Miss Richfield when asked about the hullabaloo surrounding the Vikes and the Twins. "Are they going to take the stadium? How are they going to move that thing?" Ah, current affairs are a trifle when you're an aging beauty queen. But despite a hectic schedule of eight-hour sales, bingo, and her popular radio show on the Christian station KLAP (Kneel, Listen, and Pray), Miss Richfield has kept a cubic-zirconia-studded finger on the pulse of her town. If the Dome busts, she notes, a lot of people around 75th and Emerson are out of jobs staffing parking lots and peddling beer.

"I don't know if I believe that these owners are so strapped," she surmises. "I mean, we're hauling it in at the VFW bingo games, and we're only charging $1.50 a card--and we're giving away great prizes, like coolers." She caresses a faux-mink shawl. "Then again, the money might be a little tight, the poor things. It seems like the players only have two sets of clothes."

If anybody's got the right to gripe about overblown entertainment, it's Miss Richfield. Color Me Richfield, her homemade, one-man/woman sell-out show at the tiny Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater, probably drew bigger crowds than some of last season's Twins games. And you don't see her asking for an expanded, publicly funded theater--although, if the sports teams vacate the dome, she says she'd like to do her next show there, to help the city of Minneapolis.

But whatever people say about greedy owners, something about her blue-collar upbringing brings Miss R squarely back behind the average Twin and Vike. "When it comes to the ballplayers, I'm nothing but a big athletic supporter. And I don't blame 'em, talking about wanting another stadium. It's so crowded down by the Dome. They've got to go someplace to where they've got some room, where they can spread out and have some parking--maybe head out to Bloomington, tear down that mall, and put up something that'll attract the crowds, like a stadium and an ice arena."

And what if Minnesota's sports teams took off altogether? Miss R glances at her Vikings schedule: "It seems like they leave town a lot anyway." (Scott Carlson)

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