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Stadium Games

Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles

Jay Weiner
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 536
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  • Book Info
    Stadium Games
    Book Description:

    In Stadium Games, veteran Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Jay Weiner analyzes Minnesota’s fifty-year history with pro sports and the issues contributing to the bid for a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins, along the way providing a big-picture evaluation of national sports economics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5299-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Time Line of Minnesota Stadiums
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxiv)

    The beginning of the end for a Twins ballpark was born in the office of Arne Carlson, the governor of Minnesota. It was January 7, 1997. Major-league sports in Minnesota already teetered on the brink of alienating just about everybody, including their most passionate fans. The governor and his top aide pushed the populace over the edge. A stadium war was about to break out all over.

    St. Paul Pioneer Pressreporter Patrick Sweeney, as polite a gentleman as you’ll ever meet, instigated it all. Sweeney lit the match that set the prairie fire. Ostensibly, he wanted to talk about...

  6. CHAPTER 1 If You Build It Minnesota’s Quest to Become Major League
    (pp. 1-32)

    During the first week of July in 1952, Adlai Stevenson was lining up votes for the Democratic presidential nomination. Men’s suits cost $29.95 at the stylish Young Quinlan store in downtown Minneapolis. Hubert H. Humphrey called for no retreat on civil rights in a speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Northwestern National Bank introduced a revolutionary process: drive-in banking at its flagship branch. Set to speak at the Republican convention that would eventually tab World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower as its candidate was Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, the crazed anti-Communist.

    Despite the crackling...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Something to Cheer For The Met Welcomes the Vikings and the Twins
    (pp. 33-58)

    There was more work to do on the stadium. The general public—not just its civic-minded members—would have to pay this time. With no team on the foreseeable horizon, and with professional football beginning to add teams, a decision was made to expand Met Stadium beyond its 20,000 seats to about 40,000. That initial bond issuance of $4.5 million just wasn’t enough. Jerry Moore of the Chamber of Commerce, also with the Downtown Council, and also chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Area Commission, went calling on the Minneapolis City Council. He needed more dough to fix the stadium. Now...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Where the Sun Don’t Shine Calvin and Max Move under the Teflon Sky
    (pp. 59-110)

    No sooner did Minnesota calm down from celebrating the arrival of major-league baseball and football than the baby steps to the state’s first great stadium game were about to be taken. As fast as you could say, “Cash,” the Vikings claimed by 1964 that they needed more seats at the Met to satisfy the demand of the local market and of the growing National Football League, which wanted increasingly larger stadium capacities. In a league, more than any other league, in which teams equitably shared revenues, the visiting team took home 40 percent of the gate receipts from a Vikings...

  9. CHAPTER 4 “I’m Only Human” Understanding Carl Pohlad
    (pp. 111-140)

    For Pohlad, entering the baseball hierarchy was one thing, a regal thing. But exiting gracefully was another. To understand exactly what he got himself into in 1984, we must depart from this chronology and fast-forward. We must jump ahead fourteen years, if only to bring some perspective to the blocks that built Minnesota’s late-1990s attitudes toward professional sports. Fly ahead from that August day in 1984 when, on the field of the Metrodome, Calvin Griffith cried, knowing he was selling his family’s special history with the franchise, and when Carl Pohlad threw out the first major-league pitch of his career,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Off Target Norm’s Stars Go South along with Harv and Marv’s Fortunes
    (pp. 141-178)

    As the economics of the Metrodome became problematic for the Twins and Vikings, money matters for the other Twin Cities major-league teams turned dicey, too. The fates of major-league hockey and major-league basketball were intertwined. Together they tangoed for ten years—from 1988 to 1998—with teams departing and arriving like so many 737s at the airport. By the end of the period, a new era arrived: for the first time since Johnson, McGrew, and Moore decided to make the Twin Cities major league, the legislature approved annual subsidies to arenas to help preserve pro sports franchises in city-owned facilities....

  11. CHAPTER 6 I Gotta Get Me One of These Carl’s Edifice Complex
    (pp. 179-208)

    Amid the North Stars’ flight and the Target Center Sturm und Drang, the Twins began to make their own stadium move. Pohlad, still generally liked in July 1994, went public saying something had to be done, barely two months after Wolfenson and Ratner had claimed they were going to move their team to New Orleans and even as the legal theatrics about the basketball team’s future continued. It wasn’t a pro sports roller coaster that Minnesota was on; it was more like one of those moving walkways at the airport. Every time the public thought one team had asked for...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Falling in Love with the Deal The Governor’s Men Go to Bat for Carl
    (pp. 209-266)

    During the fall of 1995, while the task force met above ground in conference rooms all over the Twin Cities, a small working group of professional political consultants gathered regularly and quietly to devise strategies and tactics on how to get a stadium built. Their job was to figure out how to explain to the general public what the task force had learned. If all Minnesotans understood the value of the teams to the state—to our “quality of life”—and if most citizens realized the Twins or Vikings might feel a need to move without some financial improvements, then...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. CHAPTER 8 Spilling the Beans The Twins’ Crime of Omission
    (pp. 267-306)

    Away from the klieg lights of public attention and personal attack, Savelkoul, Anderson, Welle, Bell, Starkey, and Bob and Jim Pohlad were nailing down a deal. Their deal. They were certainly keeping it away from the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which Savelkoul headed. No one in that agency was privy to the depth of the talks, even though by law that agency had responsibility for preserving pro sports facilities and, by extension, retaining major-league teams. No one at the capitol seemed to be thoroughly informed. Savelkoul and Anderson told Twins folks that they briefed some leaders, including the powerful Senate...

  15. CHAPTER 9 It Sure Looked Like a Loan Carl’s “Contribution” Hits the Fan
    (pp. 307-328)

    John Himle was wrong. He told Twins officials that perceptions would be internalized by the public within forty-eight hours. In this case, it took ninety-six hours for a year’s worth of trouble and worry and creativity to meet its maker. Again at the core of the implosion was Sweeney, thePioneer Pressreporter.

    On Friday, January 10, Sweeney had been tipped off by a source that there was real risk to the public in the deal. That day, Starkey, Bell, and Jim Pohlad visited thePioneer Pressto meet with its editorial board to gain support for the proposed stadium...

  16. CHAPTER 10 Holding Up the Indians Arne Plays the Race Card
    (pp. 329-356)

    An incendiary device had to be thrown into the fray. Senator Dick Day was a soldier of fortune who had the weapon to stir things up: state-backed casino gambling at Canterbury Park racetrack.

    Polls consistently showed that many Minnesotans were on his side, that using gambling proceeds of some sort was an acceptable form of ballpark funding. With his index finger to the wind and his middle finger to the state’s seventy thousand Indians, Day became the most destructive vector to enter the stadium debate. The caffeine-charged senator from Owatonna chose to take the state down a path of latent...

  17. CHAPTER 11 Leaving It to Beaver The Special Session Fake Out
    (pp. 357-386)

    As the summer of 1997 approached, different forces went to work. The major power remained Carlson’s office. Morrie Anderson was replaced by Bernie Omann, whose skill was alleged to be in working with—or over—the legislature. A more regular, accessible fellow than Anderson, more a vote getter than a deal maker, Omann, age thirty-three, was once a legislator himself and, better yet, a right-handed pitcher for Brainerd Community College. He had it all.

    In the final days of the regular session, Dean Johnson, the man who wanted a Twins stadium but didn’t want gambling, suggested that a rarely used...

  18. CHAPTER 12 “Baseball Lives If You Push Green” The Public Calls Carl’s Bluff
    (pp. 387-414)

    Other than some moral struggle with the lords of baseball, there was nothing to hope for as the special session approached. There wasn’t a chance in hell that a stadium bill would pass. Pohlad’s political stock was at zero. Many in-the-know legislators believed that if anything could happen, it would have to be without Pohlad. So it wasn’t surprising that Glen Taylor’s name kept being raised. His shining armor had saved the day for the Timberwolves three years earlier. Why couldn’t he pull another sporting rabbit out of his hat? Even Pohlad understood that. Besides, ever since Taylor had bought...

  19. CHAPTER 13 Resuscitating the Deal Norm and Sharon Wrestle for Riverfront Baseball
    (pp. 415-442)

    History was being made. A major-league sports commissioner was attempting todefeata referendum. Selig knew that the Triad couldn’t support baseball. He knew that Charlotte was a better fit. But did he know that the only real hope for baseball in Minnesota was for Carl Pohlad to sell his team?

    Such sentiment had been whispered for nearly two years. Henry Savelkoul, Minnesota’s de facto minister of sports, had pondered the ownership change option before he’d begun negotiations with Pohlad in the spring of 1996. Legislators mentioned Pohlad’s removal as a prerequisite to any stadium funding. But when Pohladtried...

  20. CHAPTER 14 Building a Public Trust Striking a Fair Deal with Pro Sports
    (pp. 443-490)

    In the year 2000, the typical Minnesotan’s opinion of pro sports is so low that it’s easy to throw in the towel rather than creatively attempt to solve our unique major-league quagmire. As the debate over stadiums and arenas continuously divided us, it became increasingly difficult to defend pro sports as a community building tool. The knee-jerk antitax political machine that took over the halls of government and the airwaves of talk radio further complicated a reasonable approach to preserving the state’s pro sports assets. A deep-seated Minnesota suspicion of the rich and powerful militates against working out a humane...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 491-504)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 505-505)