By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
As for the Twins' recent commercial--the one appealing to legislators to preserve the chances of kids in North Minneapolis to see pro games--Lee chortles. "Let them put their money where their mouth is. I was an intern with the Twins organization for a while. They don't have a lot of minorities in the front office, and they don't even have that many on the field. Five African American players at one time is about the most they've had.
"I think kids in North Minneapolis aren't concerned about going to the Metrodome, they're concerned about a place to play in the neighborhood. They have to sell cakes and wash cars to pay for uniforms. They can't afford sneakers. Kirby Puckett has done a lot, but the rest of the athletes aren't doing it, and the kids know it." (Bauerlein)
"I've never sold a home to a professional athlete," Sandy Green muses during a break between client appointments at her house in Minneapolis's Wedge neighborhood. The puke-yellow-shingled renovation-project-in-progress serves as headquarters for her independent agency.
"However," Green continues, "I've sold a lot of homes to people who are interested in soccer and in tennis. I've had people who wanted big, flat yards so they could play volleyball. But when you talk about the major leagues--the people I've sold to, from $400,000 homes to $55,000 homes, can't afford to go to those games, and they don't care what happens to those teams."
Does the presence of teams, and their stadiums, affect real-estate values? "For commercial property, maybe. For residential? Look, how many people really want that kind of thing in their back yard? There's the parking problems, and the congestion, and people littering on their way in and out. I suppose it makes a difference for corporations when they have people visiting who want these fancy seats. Me, I've been to one Timberwolves game, and I had free tickets." (Bauerlein)
The owner of Sawatdee on Sixth and Washington avenues recalls the economic promises made by Minneapolis officials in 1982 with the bitterness of a bride left at the altar. "When the Dome was being built, they had projected that business would be up and prosperous," she says. "But it never materialized. We get nothing from the Twins fans. The Vikings are better, but they're only here five or six times a year. On the other hand, U2 and the Rolling Stones packed them in here. We didn't have enough room to seat everyone."
When the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission began to eye her property as a potential site for a new stadium last year, Harrison waged a one-woman war. "I went to the Sports Commission hearings regularly and protested," she says. "I don't want to move. When you move, you lose customers." And although the commission settled on a different site, Harrison maintains the decision didn't dampen her passion. "The city wants big business," she charges. "They want to vote on this issue with no consideration for voters or business owners. They're not pro-small business in this town."
Rather than focusing on the Twins and Vikings--both of whom, she hastens to add, she likes--the city should concentrate on bringing in a variety of events. "I would rather see a lot more concerts. [Concert-goers] come downtown and spend money. Unlike the sports fans--they come in, go into the Dome, eat there, and leave. Even the Promise Keepers brought in more business." (Mary Ellen Egan)
Steve Winfield has his own publicly subsidized sports dome, over on Rice Street in St. Paul. The city of St. Paul built it two years ago in a joint venture with Inside Sports, the nonprofit where Winfield is lead instructor. There's Little League baseball and girls' fast-pitch softball, soccer, and the occasional martial-arts class. Athletes from University of Minnesota programs have come over to do clinics, Winfield says, "and so has my kid brother, Dave."
Yes, Winfield says, pro-sports teams are important in motivating kids: "Even if you don't attend a bunch of games, for kids to be able to read about it and hear about it, the appearances by the players and things like that, are an incentive to think about wanting to play."
What they play, however, varies with the times and the preferences of adults. "When the Twins won the World Series, participation in baseball soared. There were a lot of places around the state where they actually had to build some more Little League parks." Now that the team stinks, soccer has regained its spot as the fastest-growing sport in Minnesota.
All of which means that while Winfield is anxious to keep pro sports in town, he admits to wanting to see teams held accountable. "Communities ought to be more consistent with that. Some of the pro-sports owners have gotten spoiled, with people bending over backwards for them. If the owners put a sincere effort into seeming like they're trying to be a part of the community, investing in the community, having the organization and the players involved, it would endear them more to people." (Monika Bauerlein)