Questions and answers on the latest Twins stadium plan for the Warehouse District

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May 2, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: David Brauer
David Brauer

Click here to see the comparison of other new stadiums - what they cost, how much the public paid

Click hereto see the comparison of ticket prices in newer stadiums versus the Dome

By now, you know the basics of the latest proposedstadium deal: a Warehouse District ballpark, a countywide 0.15 percent sales tax, county and state approval needed, no referendum.

However, there are dozens of other facets to consider. For now, we'll let others weigh in on the deal's political/moral questions. Our goal is to better explain the current terms so you can better judge them.

The County Board is expected to vote Tuesday, May 3, to ask the Legislature for ballpark taxing authority. The 1:30 p.m. meeting is at the Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St., 24th floor, and the public can testify.

What's the split on the ballpark costs?

Twins owner Carl Pohlad pays $125 million. Hennepin County pays up to $235 million. Carl pays construction costs overruns, if any.

OK, that's $360 million. But I've read elsewhere the cost is $484 million. What's up?

The higher figure includes taxpayer-funded area improvements ($84 million) and interest on 30-year bonds ($34 million). Area improvements include buying the site, environmental cleanup, ballpark-area streetscape improvements and a new "land bridge" over I-394 connecting Target Center to the ballpark.

Bottom line: taxpayers pay 74 percent of the construction, area improvement and financing costs. Pohlad gets all revenue from naming rights and stadium operations.

How much will the new sales tax cost me?

Of course, it varies from person to person. But we can guesstimate using what economists call the "effective tax rate" - the share of your earnings a tax takes.

Extrapolating from 2007 state tax projections, an average household would pay 0.057 percent of its earnings for the ballpark (if every penny were spent in Hennepin County). A household earning $50,000 a year would be out $28.50 annually.

So when does Carl pay his share?

Pohlad must pony up $40 million when he signs the final ballpark agreement, and the remaining $85 million before the ballpark opens.

He can use income from naming rights and anything else generated by the stadium (but also pays all operating expenses).

How long is the lease?

Thirty years, no escape clause, with unspecified penalties if it's broken. If the team's contracted, the county gets at least 50 percent of the owner's take and damages from unrecoverable ballpark costs.

Roof or no roof?

No roof for now. The state must decide to kick in the dough; estimated cost: at least $100 million.

No roof? You have to be kidding! This is Minnesota!

Much was made of the Twins' two recent "snowouts" in Detroit, but here's context: in 2004, the Tigers suffered one weather-related postponement, and in 2003, two. Ditto for Cleveland, another northern city with an open-air stadium.

Certainly, rain can delay games and outdoor conditions can be miserable. But the argument that "folks won't come from Bismarck because there might not be a game" seems overblown: in Detroit and Cleveland, 49 out of every 50 games occurred as scheduled.

OK, but they can build a roof-ready stadium, right?

Nope. Contrary to media reports, a roofless stadium wouldn't be built to accommodate a roof, said Twins President Dave St. Peter. Therefore, the roof issue has to be settled before construction starts.

By the way, even a roofed stadium wouldn't be air-conditioned like the Dome, and the only heat might be to the seats if the garbage burner can provide the energy.

Will seat heating work?

The County is studying that right now. Logistics are a problem, and diverting energy to the ballpark could endanger a contract to provide Xcel with electricity.

How bad will the garbage burner stink be?

In February 2004, representatives of nearby business told Skyway News that thngs could get a bit ripe for a few days each summer.

Hennepin County officials say they've made some changes since then.

Senior Environmentalist Jake Smith said odor monitoring began last year; from March to November, odor was detected offsite three times, he said.

The burner's smell comes from the delivery truck's loads, not the stack. The burner just added high-speed doors to better keep garbage fumes inside the tipping floor, but deliveries can't be restricted during games because of a contract.

The ballpark's supposed to open in 2009 - that's four years away! Why not sooner?

The County estimates it will take 12 months for environmental review and up to 30 months for construction. Forty-two months from this May (if the deal's approved) is after the 2008 season ... if everything's on schedule.

The proposed deal states that "the Twins will provide for affordable tickets." How many and how affordable?

No one yet knows; it's to be negotiated. St. Peter said that the Twins wouldn't back away from "ticket packages geared to families and our promotions like student nights."

C'mon. Won't it cost an arm and a leg to get into a shiny new stadium?

St. Peter suggests prices will be comparable to those in other Midwestern cities with new ballparks.

If that's true, Twins fans won't see sticker shock - at least any more than they now do in the Dome.

Fans in Midwest cities with new roofless stadiums - Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Detroit - pay less than today's Twins fans for lower-deck and upper-deck infield seats (see chart below). Lower-deck seats down the baseline cost a bit more, while bleacher prices are comparable.

One reason the new 42,000-seat stadium will seem pricier is there will be a lot more good (and thus higher-priced) seats and fewer poor-quality, "cheap" seats than in the 56,000-seat Dome.

Just 42,000 seats ... that means a cute little place like Wrigley Field, right?

Not exactly. The proposed ballpark would rise at least 199 feet - 4 feet higher than the Metrodome. (Another version would be 237 feet tall, about four stories taller!)

New ballparks rise higher because of suite and club seat levels, where the club makes most of its new money. Upper-deck fans in new ballparks are often surprised how high up they sit.

Then again, the Twins stadium would have the fewest upper-deck seats in the majors (12,482). Fans in the 23,450 lower-deck seats will be closer: first-row seats behind home plate are 8 feet closer and 1st/3rd base seats are 15 feet closer.

Any Wrigley-like elements?

There may be "rooftop" seating like across the street from the Cubs' ballpark.

Will it be a hitters' or pitchers' park?

Pitchers will hate it: The left field fence is 15 feet closer, the left field power alley moves in 14 feet and center field is shortened 6 feet. Right field is roughly the same distance away - but without the Dome's infamous baggie.

What about crowded concourses?

The new ballpark's are at least twice as wide, and are open to the field, unlike at the Dome.

Bathrooms?

Relief is at hand. There are 34 (split evenly between the sexes) compared to the Dome's 16.

Any other whiz-bang elements for Downtown?

The elevated I-394 plaza from Target Center should expand the entertainment district. And while the Northstar Rail/LRT link isn't dependent on the ballpark, it all comes together near left field and could be integrated in an interesting way.

Who would actually own the stadium?

Not county taxpayers, contrary to some media reports. A new Ballpark Commission, known in deal lingo as the "BC", would own the facility.

The proposed BC has five members: the county and governor appoint two, and the city of Minneapolis appoints one.

Hey - the city and state aren't paying anything, so why do they get a majority?

Practical politics and sound finances.

The county needs state permission to do the deal, so two gubernatorial appointments are an easy and cheap plum. Minneapolis is home to the ballpark.

Financially, the county must "gift" the stadium to an entity it doesn't control to help make the stadium bonds tax-free. Tax-free bonds carry lower interest rates (4.75 percent is the estimate), and thus lower financing costs because investors will accept a lower rate of return.

Who decides the beer prices and whether I can finally get sushi at the ballgame?

The Twins. They operate the stadium and make allsuch decisions.

Then what does the BC do?

It protects the public's stadium investment and helps decide how to spend the $1.4 million annual capital improvement payments the county also would make. The Twins are on the hook for $600,000, and both figures rise with inflation.

What if Pohlad sells the team? Do we get a slice ofhis profits?

The BC gets 18 percent of the gross sale price if Carl sells the year ground is broken. The percentage drops 1.8 percent annually until it disappears in 2016.

The concept is to capture any windfall from a new stadium. Critics note that the franchise value - boosted by taxpayer money - won't drop, so why should the public's take? The Twins respond that the clause is richer for the public than in most stadium deals.

Community ownership advocates say as long as we're building the ballpark, we should buy the team, too, and capture all the upside. Bills in the Legislature would do just that, but they've languished so far.

I want to dump the commissioners who support/oppose this deal! When can I vote them out?!

Stadium backers Mike Opat, Peter McLaughlin and Mark Stenglein are up in 2006, and Randy Johnson (not that Randy Johnson) is up in 2008.

Among current opponents, Gail Dorfman faces voters in 2006 and Penny Steele and Linda Koblick in 2008.

I'd like to be the dudes who own the stadium land right now. How pretty are they sitting?

Bruce Lambrecht and Rich Pogin represent investors who own the site. A $12.95 million deal to sell the land to the city expired in January.

County and Twins negotiators have stuck their necks way out by anointing the site, putting Lambrecht and Pogin in a stronger bargaining position.

Lambrecht defers comment on negotiations, saying coyly that he and government leaders "need to have a cup of coffee."

However, one source close to negotiators say the duo have worked to get a ballpark on the site for six years and won't screw it up by hiking their price. We'll see.

Would the 0.15-percent tax disappear when the stadium is paid for?

County officials believe the new stadium could be paid off at least a decade before the 30-year bonds come due; if legislation limits the sales tax to ballpark uses, the tax could expire.

However, the county is on the hook for around $2 million a year to fund ballpark capital improvements and the BC, and that needs to be paid for. History shows taxes rarely die.

What share of Hennepin County's sales taxes come from the city versus the suburbs?

State figures show one-third is generated in the city and two-thirds in the 'burbs.

Minneapolis voters passed a $10 million limit on ballpark spending. Does this deal violate that?

It doesn't sound like it. The public costs will be paid by the county sales tax.

What will happen if a Wolves game is going on next door?

That means the Wolves are in the playoffs. We'll manage somehow.