Off Beat

Take Me Out to the Neighborhood-Based Ballpark

LAST WEEK THE Star Tribune made a front-page splash with the revelation that some local business leaders--among them Norwest CEO Jim Campbell and the paper's own publisher John Schueler--had formed a group aiming to get a new Twins stadium built without public money. The group, which calls itself New Ballpark, Inc., was consulting with a Chicago architect by the name of Philip Bess, an advocate of "old-style, neighborhood-based ballparks."

Off Beat's not given to displays of emotion, but we've got to admit our left eyebrow went up a notch. The next day it was the other eyebrow's turn, when we read yet more Stribcoverage, including an editorial that took credit for inspiring the idea.

Readers of this paper may recall a cover story from last September 8 titled "Ballpark Frankness," in which author Tom Goldstein profiled Philip Bess and detailed the architect's vision for neighborhood ballyards. And readers of the Star Tribune might remember a column published five days earlier by business writer Neal St. Anthony, which was devoted to the stadium issue and which noted that several local businessmen, including Campbell and Schueler, had recently convened to discuss "no- to low-tax ways to finance stadium construction or improvement." In early January, when Off Beat (that's us) wrote a column about how Minneapolis City Council member Paul Ostrow--identified in last week's Star Tribune coverage as "the city council's point person on the issue"--had recently lured Bess to town, Ostrow told us he'd fallen in love with Bess's vision after reading about him in City Pages.

Though the Star Tribune took great care to assure Twin Citians that Schueler's involvement does not constitute a conflict of interest, readers could be forgiven for getting the idea that all this meeting has borne fruit. True, Campbell has promised to "help pay for the study process"--whatever that may entail. Ostrow envisions research costs of between $100,000 and $200,000, but he says that not a nickel has been pledged for actual bricks and mortar. The financing details, he explains, are a "work in progress."

Campbell was on vacation and unavailable for comment. We weren't able to hook up with Schueler either, but Off Beat did chat about the conflict-of-interest issue with Strib VP Frank Parisi. High-minded discussions about newsroom coverage aside, Parisi admits that the continued presence of major-league baseball in the Twin Cities would represent a definite boon to the paper's sports section. (While he asserts that the paper sees bigger jumps in newsstand sales following a Vikings game than a Twins game, Parisi also notes that the newspaper is a "presenting sponsor" of the Twins' 40th season.)

Chuck Neerland, a partner in the lobbying and public relations firm Neerland & Oyaas Inc., says his company signed on six weeks ago, at the behest of Schueler and Campbell, to help coordinate (and eventually to promote) the effort. Both the Strib and Norwest are already clients of his firm, Neerland says. "So nobody's paying us any more for this at this time."

According to Neerland, New Ballpark's current steering committee consists of Campbell, Schueler, Ostrow, himself, and partner Mark Oyaas, plus Minneapolis City Coordinator Kathy O'Brien, Hennepin County commissioner Mark Stenglein, Hennepin County's director of the Office of Budget and Finance Jim Ufer, public relations firm Shandwick Minneapolis CEO Dave Mona, Minneapolis Downtown Council president Sam Grabarski, Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council AFL-CIO president Dick Johnson, and Minneapolis Building & Construction Trades Council business manager John D. Williams.

"The private-sector investment that we're envisioning," Neerland says, "would be a developer borrowing money or investing money and building a baseball park and owning it and striking a deal with the major tenant to share the revenues."

This Just In: Ciresi Wins

CONTRARY TO WIDELY circulated media reports, Sen. Jerry Janezich (DFL-Chisholm) was apparently not the winner of the party's endorsement for U.S. Senator earlier this month. Despite the fact that Janezich garnered 65 percent of the delegates to Mike Ciresi's 34 percent on the ninth and final ballot, a June 9 press release from the Ciresi camp offered this assessment: "We won!" Explains Ciresi spokesman Paul Omodt: "I think we came out very well at the convention. We were the only candidate who gained momentum on every ballot." True, but Janezich led on every ballot from the get-go. "I don't how they define won," counters Janezich campaign manager Randy Schubring. "Jerry Janezich is the DFL-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate, and Sen. Paul Wellstone is standing next to him at every chance he can get saying, 'This is the guy.'" Will Ciresi again proclaim victory if he comes in second in the September 12 primary? Concedes Omodt: "Obviously that would not be the same thing."

 
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