Off Beat

Play Ball

THEY'RE TALKING BASEBALL at Minneapolis City Hall. Off Beat hears that an early draft of the city council's unanimous resolution to back a downtown riverfront site for the Guthrie Theater included a pledge to find a new home for the Twins. Additionally, last month architect, university professor, and Cubs fan Philip Bess was in town to tell local public officials how a beautiful outdoor baseball stadium can be constructed for a fraction of the $300 million to $500 million typically shelled out for such endeavors. (Remember Tom Goldstein's September 8, 1999, cover story "Ballpark Frankness," which detailed Bess's concept?) The December 10 visit was the brainchild of council member Paul Ostrow, who contacted Bess after reading Goldstein's article and the architect's book, City Baseball Magic. (The city didn't pay for the trip; Bess's expenses were covered by the architectural firm Hammel Green and Abrahamson Inc., which hosted the first of two informal meetings that day.) Ostrow thinks Bess's design ideas, which do away with what the architect believes is a lot of unnecessary space and expense, make sense. "He talks about a stadium that is more intimate and fan-friendly--as a baseball fan, I find that appealing," the First Ward council member says. "But the real challenge is: How do we develop some kind of consensus where we can start talking about this issue publicly?" Judging from Ostrow's comments and the views of some of his colleagues, Off Beat surmises that such a challenge is twofold. One hurdle would be to persuade everyone involved to embrace Bess's vision for a less-gaudy stadium--a ballpark that would be an integral element in a neighborhood rather than an anchor of a so-called entertainment zone. The other obstacle, of course, would be finding a way to pay for such a venture without digging too far into the public's purse. "I think the amount of private funding has to be considerably greater than what's been talked about before," Ostrow admits. And is a move afoot to generate private-sector involvement? "Nothing that's really jelled," the council member hedges. "But I'm convinced that there's some interest out there."

 

There She Goes

MEDIA CAREERS OFTEN follow odd trajectories, but few (locally at least) have been as unusual as that of Katherine Lanpher, host of the call-in show Midmorning on Minnesota Public Radio's KNOW-FM (91.1). A former beat reporter and columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Lanpher cut her radio teeth on the raucous AM gabfest circuit in the early Nineties, trading quips with the likes of Barbara Carlson and Jesse Ventura. After appearing as "a really mouthy guest" (her own words) on Carlson's show, Lanpher landed her own program, Weeknights With Katherine Lanpher, on KSTP-AM (1500) in 1995. She moved her brassy, whip-smart act to Midmorning some 18 months ago, infusing the broadcast with more verve than one normally finds on the public side of the airwaves. "This isn't what I planned to do," Lanpher tells Off Beat, punctuating the observation with her characteristic cackle. "I often joke that I'm probably the only public-radio host who got her gig by way of Rush Limbaugh." We rang up Lanpher to ask for comment on the widespread speculation that she's about to move on to one of the best talk-radio gigs out there. During the week before Christmas she did a stint in Washington, D.C., as guest host of National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation, which has been fishing for a new microphone maven ever since radio genius Ray Suarez left in September. Though Lanpher points out that the four-day assignment wasn't a formal tryout and that she hasn't actually applied for the job, don't be surprised if she moves on. Midmorning and Talk of the Nation boast the same fundamental format: Both are two hours long; both touch on a wide variety of public-affairs and cultural topics, both feature brainy guests and callers from across the spectrum. (Of course, Talk offers a bigger listenership, considerably larger staff support, and, let's face it, a little more prestige.) "Who's not gonna have a good time saying, 'From Washington, I'm Katherine Lanpher, this is Talk of the Nation,'" the host tells us. "That was fun. But they haven't offered me the job, and it's going to take weeks to months for them to make up their minds. But I've got a great gig here, too, so it's a win-win situation." According to an NPR flack in D.C., we can expect a new Talk host by March. But in the characteristically guarded manner of public-radio public relations, NPR declines to say whether Lanpher has expressed interest in the job, whether she's under consideration, or how many others might be vying for the coveted spot.

 

At Off Beat our motto is "Staying informed so you don't have to." Call (612) 372-3788 or send e-mail tooffbeat@citypages.com with any poop that's fit to print.

 
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