This week promises to be a huge one in the lives and futures of the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings, as a proposed stadium bill expected to be brought up for a vote as soon as today would, in the estimation on many political analysts (including the state's governor), be a death warrant for both.
It looked just a week ago as though all three proposed stadiums in Minnesota – one for the Twins, Vikings and Gophers – were all doing well and each had a chance to pass on its own merit. The biggest hurdle, many believed, was getting through the state's House of Representatives – all of whom are up for election in November. But, when a Twins bill passed the House more than a week ago, it was believed that the Senate would follow suit. Many have postulated that the votes were already available in the Senate and that the House would be the issue.
As soon as today, the Senate could bring a new, vastly different stadium vote to the floor of its chamber. This proposal would tie the Vikings and Twins stadiums into a half-cent sales tax for everyone living in the seven-counties that are deemed the "Twin Cities metro area." Also included in the tax would be transit funding for future projects unrelated to any stadium issues. To complicate matters, the increased tax spread over more people would also be required to be part of a referendum vote on the ballot this fall – an inclusion Twins officials have said would assuredly be a deal-breaker.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Rep.) has said he won't sign a bill that would combine the two stadiums and the transit portion of the tax, saying that the Twins stadium should be the first priority for this session and the Vikings and Gophers stadiums would get their opportunities when the time was right.
"The real urgency concern here is the Twins," Pawlenty told reporters. "The others can be considered on their own merits, in their own time, in their own way."
The Twins have grown increasingly frustrated with the Legislature. It didn't meet in special session in 2005 following a Hennepin County proposal that was approved by the House late last month. In addition, there has been growing sentiment that the Vikings proposal on its own merits would meet with state approval, since the cost for infrastructure improvements has been greatly reduced and the project would include more than $1 billion in private funding money. Even the Gophers stadium proposal has been sidetracked, as an amendment has been added to get to the language of the bill that would charge a 13 percent tax on Gophers memorabilia and a previous-agreed upon deal with TCF (a Twins Cities-based banking chain) for naming rights would not be allowed.
If the current Senate bill passes, it will go to conference committee – with the continued pledge from Gov. Pawlenty that he will veto the bill if it stays in that form. A formerly bright future for the "three stadium" plan that optimists believed could get done as early as this month, is now once again in flux. Stay tuned.
* The post-Foley era with the Vikings is approaching its second week and, as of yet, nothing has been officially decided on whether an immediate replacement is in the offing. But, don't expect to see Brad Childress looking into the scouting stewardship as part of his job description. Not only has Childress expressed no interest in taking over Fran Foley's duties, he's given a recommendation to current head of college scouting Scott Studwell to be assigned what were anticipated to be Foley's duties.
* From the "As the Favre Turns" Department comes this: At minicamp this weekend, Packers QB Brett Favre not only didn't stamp this season as his last in the NFL, he hinted once again that he may have the itch to play in 2007. Just when you thought he was out, they pull him back in.
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