Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Take me out to the ballgame (but let us vote first)

There's something about attending a major league baseball game that sets it apart from other sports.

I attended last Friday's Twins loss against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Metrodome. It was not a pretty sight, but for someone who grew up idolizing Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva, a bad day at the ballpark beats a good day at work anytime. I managed to complete my best-ever, most accurate scorecard of the game. The Twins put on a show, on and off the field, that's both kid-friendly and grandparent-friendly. I was there with both my kids and their grandmas, and a group from our church (it was "Methodists at the Metrodome" night). Beer and "Dome Dogs" were in plentiful supply, yet the fans, even the Toronto fans, were just there to enjoy baseball, not pick a fight. The peanut vendor flipped bags of salted-in-the-shell peanuts high in the air to his customers, and cash got passed hand-to-hand back to him. (Unfortunately, Wally the Beerman was either working at Canterbury Park or in another section.) Twins hats, t-shirts, and jerseys with player names were everywhere, and several fans even waved Homer Hankies. Fans enjoyed the "Kiss-Cam" and waved their "Circle Me Burt" signs. And we sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch.

It will be so much better from a fan standpoint to see baseball played in a baseball stadium again, instead of in a football stadium. Outfielders, especially from visiting teams, will not miss losing fly balls in the white Metrodome roof. Yet the Hennepin County Commissioners, with blessings from the Legislature and Governor Pawlenty, are about to stick the taxpayers of Hennepin County with a raw deal, mostly to the benefit of millionaire ballplayers and billionaire team owners. For example:
  • The Twins' $125 million "contribution" will be easily covered by revenue from naming rights, concessions, concerts and non-baseball events, and parking.

  • Taxpayers will pay 100% of any cost overruns. The Twins have a $125 million cap on their contribution. Hennepin County has no cap on its contribution.

Hennepin County will be conducting three public hearings before the county board votes on whether to levy a $1.1 billion sales tax to pay for the stadium and other projects. Perhaps they could be persuaded to conduct a referendum, that is, make the case for this tax directly to Hennepin County taxpayers, instead just in the halls of power at the Capitol.

TUESDAY, August 22, Downtown Minneapolis
5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Board Room, 24th Floor, Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St., Minneapolis

WEDNESDAY, August 23, Bloomington
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, Bloomington Civic Plaza, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road

THURSDAY, August 24 -- Maple Grove
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, Maple Grove Government Center, 12800 Arbor Lakes Parkway.

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