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New ballpark plans at crossroads

New ballpark plans at crossroads

Following a closed-door meeting between Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, government and legislative leaders, it appears that a special legislative session is looking more likely, but a vote on a Twins ballpark might not be on the agenda.

Leaders of the Minnesota House and Senate emerged from the governor's office on Thursday, saying that the most likely special session agenda items are a new University of Minnesota football stadium and a new hospital in the northern Twin Cities suburbs.

"The one issue there seems to be a consensus on is a Gopher stadium on campus, and we will move forward on that as the possible basis of a special session," Pawlenty said.

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Others who attended the meeting said that the possibility of a Twins ballpark vote was not off the table, but was not an item upon which a consensus had been reached just yet.

"A special session for the Twins doesn't seem to have total support within leadership, and perhaps more work needs to be done," said Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Dean E. Johnson, who has authored Twins ballpark legislation in past sessions. It wasn't the highest priority on the list. We're not discounting the Twins, but the one issue we seem to agree on is the Gophers."

After nearly a decade of work toward a ballpark in the halls of the Capitol, the news was more than a little discouraging for team officials.

"We couldn't be more disappointed with the announcement following today's meeting," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "That being said, we're definitely going to believe in the old baseball adage that's it's not over 'til it's over. We'll stay engaged with the governor and legislative leaders in hopes that a ballpark can be an agenda item in a special session."

Those meeting with the governor stressed that nothing has been definitively ruled in or out as a special session item, and the governor underscored the fact that he has not yet called a special session or even pledged to call one. One legislative leader said he would support a Twins ballpark if it comes to a vote.

"I support the Twins proposal, but I have caucus members who do not," said State Representative Steve Sviggum, the Speaker of the House in Minnesota. "I do believe that if you had votes on both [Twins and Gophers facilities, they'd both pass."

For team officials, that increases the frustration over the lack of a commitment to vote on a ballpark bill that they think would pass.

"We continue to believe that the votes are there to pass a bill, and today we saw that nearly all parties agree that the votes are there to pass a ballpark," St. Peter said. "We've followed the governor's road map, coming up with a plan with no state money and significant private investment up front."

After watching his team stage dozens of late-inning rallies inside the Metrodome, St. Peter said he remains hopeful of fans spurring a late rally at the State Capitol that will get the ballpark on the agenda if a special session is called.

"There's no time like now for our fans throughout the region to weigh in with the governor and legislative leaders and not let this opportunity with Hennepin County pass us by," St. Peter said.

Jess Myers is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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