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Pioneer Editorial: Would you believe three sports parks?

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Pioneer Editorial: Would you believe three sports parks?
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

With the Minnesota House approving legislation Wednesday to authorize a new Minnesota Twins stadium, it appears the Minnesota Legis-lature is on the verge of something that has eluded it for 10 years -- a new baseball stadium.

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Not only that, by the time the dust clears May 22, we may have three stadiums in the works.

The first question we ask: Is it proper? Next: Do we have the time? Third: Can we afford it, giving other pressing needs?

If done right, the answer to all three should be: Yes.

As long as the Legislature's major business of approving a state public works bill is done by May 22, there's time for a lot of available now that might not be in a major state budget year.

A solution to a new Twins stadium has been elusive over the years, amid cries that the state of Minnesota should not be providing for millionaire players and billionaire owners. They're right, to an extent, but the plan now emerging from the Legislature seems to possess the best qualities of previous plans and includes one, big selling point -- the Twins stadium will come at no cost to Minnesota taxpayers.

To be sure, people buying stuff in Hennepin County will pay a little extra -- 3 cents sales tax on every $20 purchased -- but that tax applies to us too as we travel to the new stadium for games and buy souvenirs, food and lodging. In a perfect society, it would have been proper to allow residents of that county to vote on it, but the likelihood of it not passing, and then having the Twins leave Minne-sota, intensifies. This way, Hennepin County businesses benefit from the Twins, in increased traffic and sales, and the state benefits from taxing player salaries and the like.

A football stadium for the University of Minnesota is also likely, but that plan could go down to defeat if the DFL Senate isn't careful. People are still tax conscious, and don't mind if a way can be found to lower that tax bill. The Senate Taxes Committee on Wednesday approved a Gopher stadium bill -- but stripped out key elements of allowing naming rights to TCF Bank for $35 million, imposing a $50-per-year student fee and without a land deal having the U turn over a 2,800-acre park to the state in exchange for annual payments to retire the stadium debt. Instead, Taxes Chairman Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, wants to find a new tax to pay for the $12.9 million a year needed over the next 25 years.

With a no-new-taxes governor and GOP House, that surely seems a deal breaker. While we can make a lot of arguments about doing away with that silly pledge for education, health care and transportation, we come to shaky ground on sports stadiums, even if it is for the U.

Slipping behind the Twins and the University is the Minnesota Vikings, with new owner Zygi Wilf peddling a mega-development for Blaine that coincidentally includes an outdoor Vikings stadium. The $1 billion center he calls Northern Lights is more appropriately Northern Mall of America, but it is intriguing and promises to stimulate the northern Twin Cities economy with more than just pigskins. And, Anoka County wants to go the route of Hennepin County with a small sales tax increase, saving state taxpayers.

Wilf has earned a lot of respect, but the urgency may not be there as it is for the Twins and the University. Still, if two out of three stadiums emerge May 22, that's still a major victory and Wilf will have laid down a lot of goodwill for a return next year.

And it appears that the stadiums can be done without diverting state resources away from education, health care or transportation.

But another reason comes to mind also -- could it be that it's an election year, and legislators have had little to show for the past two years?

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