The Rise and Fall of an Edifice Complex

The Star Tribune's quixotic quest for a new Twins stadium

The debate over building a publicly funded baseball stadium to replace the Metrodome was kicked off in the mid-Nineties. Many a deal for a new Minnesota Twins ballpark has been roundly snuffed at the state capitol in the meantime, yet the issue staggers on, like a zombie hungry for fresh blood. Few have done more to meet the demand than the editorial board of the Star Tribune, the self-proclaimed "Newspaper of the Twin Cities."

It wasn't ever thus. There was a time, back in the Dark Ages circa 1993, when the Strib's board calmly and coolly believed there was no sense in replacing the perfectly suitable Metrodome at taxpayers' expense. (Of course, at the time the more pressing public bailout of Target Center was looming on the horizon.) But since they climbed fully aboard the booster wagon in early 1996, it's been hard to quiet the polemic din.

As St. Paulites prepare to vote yea or nay November 2 on an extra half-cent sales tax to fund one-third of a new Twins stadium in their fair city, we at City Pages thought it might be useful to sample the voluminous heap of verbiage Star Tribune editorialists have spent on scolding and pampering its pet project. We traced stadium-related editorials back a good six years, and found more than five dozen penned on the topic alone. (This is only counting unsigned, voice-of-the-paper opinions, not bylined think pieces.) Scads of pronouncements on other subjects--some as far-removed as the stalled Block E development--made passing reference to the wisdom of spending, say, hundreds of millions on a new Twins' nest in Minneapolis.

They liked the retractable roof idea. They nixed the notion of paying for it with sin taxes or gambling revenues, but regularly endorsed some kind of general tax. They frothed at the mouth over the Legislature's stubborn refusal to pass a stadium-finance bill. Most recently they expressed chagrin over the fact that, lo these many years, the myopic masses still appear unwilling to cough up a dime to buy Carl Pohlad's boys a new home. No matter what, they were never at a loss for an opinion.

 

The "We Don't need a new Ballpark" Era

September 24, 1993: The dawn of the modern age for Star Tribune stadium editorials. Responding to a scheme to erect an outdoor ballpark right next to the Metrodome, the paper's board dismissed the idea as "goofy" and "outlandish," before unequivocally concluding that "[t]he Twin Cities area clearly doesn't need a new, publicly financed outdoor stadium for baseball."

January 8, 1994:"For now, however, the kind of improvements being considered by the Sports Facilities Commission and its major tenants--the Twins, Vikings, and Gophers--should help keep the Metrodome a good investment for years to come."

April 8, 1995:Coming off the major-league baseball strike, the Stribdubs the Twins' quest for a new home "outrageous" and concludes, "What the Gophers and the Twins need more than new stadiums are better teams to play in the one they've got."

July 24, 1995: "No longer is it enough merely to react to the demands of money-grubbing club owners....Cities, regions, and states must instead get out in front with proactive policies and strategies of their own for dealing with footloose franchises."

October 24, 1995: In response to Gov. Arne Carlson's proposal for a referendum on a metrowide sales tax to fund a ballpark: "A more philosophic question is whether a tax on ordinary day-to-day purchases is a proper vehicle for raising money for professional sports...."

 

The "We're Starting to Like This Idea" Era

January 21, 1996: "The Twins do need a new stadium....Even with a long-term subsidy, however, a new Twins stadium could be a good public investment. A new stadium would guarantee the team's continued presence in the Twin Cities at least through the first quarter of the 21st century...."

April 18, 1996: On an announced goal by Carlson's office of hammering out a stadium solution by July in the face of public hostility: "Recent experience in cities like Cincinnati, Seattle, and Detroit shows that such opposition can be overcome."

August 27, 1996: "If the Twins are to remain competitive in the American League--or, for that matter, remain much longer in Minnesota--they will need a new stadium of the kind recently built in Baltimore, Cleveland, and Denver...."

November 2, 1996: On the economic disparity between large- and small-market teams: "...it's important to realize this imbalance forces Twins owner Carl Pohlad and others to seek out fresh sources of revenue--namely a new baseball-only stadium--to remain afloat."

 

The "Giddy Enthusiasm" Era

January 10, 1997: "With his stunning offer to put up as much as $158 million of his own resources toward a new Twins ballpark...no longer can it be plausibly argued that Pohlad wants the public to buy him a fancy new ballpark so he can get richer than he already is."

January 31, 1997: On revelations that Pohlad's "contribution" would actually be a loan: "[D]id anyone really believe...the Pohlad family was proposing to make an outright gift rather than a recoverable investment?" (Uh, didn't you guys?)

March 5, 1997: On the possibility of raiding the state surplus: "...the idea of tapping those excess billions to pay for a stadium is more and more worthy of consideration."

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