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Selig makes pitch for Twins' ballpark

Selig makes pitch for Twins' new ballpark

MILWAUKEE -- Commissioner Bud Selig threw down the gauntlet on Thursday and asked the governor of Minnesota to call a special legislative session to save a ballpark deal for the Twins that expires at the end of the year.

The funding for a new open-air stadium in downtown Minneapolis has been stalled since July, when the state legislature recessed for the year without taking a vote on the $360 million project. But thus far, Gov. Tim Pawlenty hasn't called the lawmakers back into a special session to take up the issue.

"(The Twins are) frustrated, frankly I'm frustrated, we're all frustrated," Selig said after Thursday's quarterly owners' meeting during which the owners approved the transfer of the controlling interest in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from Vince Naimoli to Stu Sternberg.

"The Twins need a new stadium. They need it to be a good franchise. Theirs is the 14th-largest market in this country. It's clearly a Major League market. But they are burdened. And clearly we in baseball are very unhappy about it."

Gov. Pawlenty and his press secretary were en route home from China on Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

The Twins need legislative approval for a .15 percent sales tax increase in Hennepin County that would be the ballpark's primary funding source. The Hennepin County board approved the increase. The Twins are proposing to make a $125 million cash contribution toward the construction of the ballpark, a figure consistent with what the Padres contributed to the construction of San Diego's PETCO Park, which opened two years ago.

MLB and Hennepin County officials are concerned that further delays in the approval of the project could increase the cost of the facility because of inflation in the prices of building materials.

The Twins, who play in the 23-year-old Metrodome, have been trying to fund a new ballpark in either Minneapolis or St. Paul for the better part of a decade, but have had almost every plan scuttled at the state level. Frustration with the process became so acute that the Twins and the then Montreal Expos were considered for contraction after the 2001 season.

Only a lease for the Twins to play in the Metrodome for 2002, and legal rulings to support it that went as high as the state Supreme Court, kept the Twins in existence.

The Expos have since moved to Washington, D.C., and contraction is no longer considered an option by MLB, but stadium problems in Minneapolis, Miami and Oakland are all on the front burner.

"I know about all the anger generated [in Minnesota] by the contraction process," Selig said. "I was certainly one of the targets of it and I understand that. So here it is four years later. The Twins make a deal with Hennepin County. There's no state money involved. And they're having a tough time getting it through the state legislature. That is a very frustrating process and this deal is done on Dec. 31.

"We're concerned. We're very concerned."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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