Suicide Squeeze

LOREN NIEMI
  Elliott Park Neighborhood Association

On the opposite side of the Dome from Sawatdee, Loren Niemi also recalls promises of economic salvation for depressed neighborhoods during the first big stadium push. "There had been a lot of talk about how it was going to create jobs. And it did, but they've only been part-time jobs that don't pay a living wage." Nor, he adds, was much done to mitigate the adverse effects of a stadium in residents' backyard--problems like public urination. "We've spoken to the police about this," says Niemi. "It's the Viking fans who pee all over the place, not the street drunks."

D. Kimber

Despite the lack of bladder control among game goers, Niemi says he'd like to see the Twins and Vikings stay in Minneapolis, as long as the deal shakes out right. And should the Legislature fail to work something out, Niemi contends it would hardly spell the end for neighborhoods like his. After all, he says, "if you look back at history, we did very well before the Twins arrived." (Egan)

HELEN PIERCE
   fan

Used to be that Helen Pierce and her friend would take the bus from their Northeast Minneapolis high-rise to the Metrodome. "We'd have lunch and see a game. We'd always sit in the upper deck along the third-base line. You can see everything just fine from right there, and I like to have a rail in front of me when I'm in that building.

"Then my friend died and I haven't been out to many games since. I don't feel like I'm missing much when I can listen to Herb Carneal and John Gordon, though--they're so good I almost feel like I can see the game. Every year when the season ends I just don't know what I'm going to do. I enjoy football, but there aren't nearly enough games. And there's very little on television that interests me. I do watch Murder, She Wrote, and I have a video of the 1991 World Series that I'll take out and watch once in a while.

"I honestly can't think of them leaving. I'd give them $50 if it would help. I still remember watching the 1987 World Series on television, and I was here by myself and I got all excited. There have been so many wonderful moments."

If worst came to worst, Pierce guesses, she could always follow the Cubs on WGN. "But I certainly hope the Twins don't leave. And I might as well tell you that I've even gone so far as to pray about it." (Brad Zellar)

FRANK BROWN
   hat retailer

One of the screens on the wall of video monitors dominating the Hat Zone is flickering in and out of snow. A clean-cut twentysomething sales guy swats at it with his foot, hoping to jar it back into synch with the other dozen-or-so TVs projecting a bass-heavy sound wave across the third floor of the Mall of America.

This is the smaller of the two storefronts the Hat Zone occupies at the mall, and National Sales Manager Frank Brown estimates that on a typical Saturday the nook sells about 25 caps. But two weekends ago when the Vikes spanked the Patriots at the Metrodome, he sold 100 hats. Prima facie evidence, he says, that pro sports has an economic multiplier effect Twin Cities businesses won't miss until it's too late.

Sports, he insists over the throb of the music video, is a hype kind of industry. And he's off on a familiar rant: The basic problem with sports in Minnesota is the lame, fair-weather fan base. Brown himself is from a city with a beloved NFL team, where people understand the importance of new stadiums and aren't afraid to dig deep for hats, jackets, loge-level tickets, and skyboxes. Want proof? he asks, turning toward a group of hatless heads hesitating at the store's entrance. The Hat Zone in Kansas City sells almost nothing except Chiefs hats. And it's thriving. (Hawkins)

DAVID WIGGINS
   historian

The toothy and affable program director of the Minnesota Historical Society's St. Anthony Falls office runs tours of the historic milling district around the falls. If the new Twins stadium gets built, it's likely to be plunked down in the middle of his route. But that doesn't worry David Wiggins much. "We interpret the history of the riverfront," he says. "If this is the latest wrinkle, we can interpret that too. They've been building a lot of big things down here for a long time."

Supposing all of them head out of town--Vikes, Twins, Wolves? That doesn't worry him either. "I don't anticipate a rash of suicides over the falls. The places that really need sports teams, like Nebraska," he offers, "are not as blessed with other things to do as we are. That's part of the problem sports teams have in keeping their stadiums full. Every time they are offering a game there are plenty of other things to do."

In fact, Wiggins claims, the loss of professional sports could be a net gain: "We need to learn to appreciate our real world. There's entertainment value in our sports teams, but it's not the same kind of value you find in the Mississippi--the value of a place, the meaning of a place. When our distractions leave, we might appreciate it more." (Joseph Hart)

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