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Gov. Pawlenty signs new ballpark bill

Minnesota governor signs ballpark bill

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the Twins-Hennepin County new ballpark legislation in a special on-field ceremony before Friday night's game against the Mariners.

Pawlenty inked his signature at 7:22 p.m. CT, which prompted a standing ovation and officially ended the franchise's long wait for an outdoor stadium.

"Baseball has a way of bringing families together, and Minnesota is a family," Pawlenty told the Metrodome crowd. "Baseball memories happen from generation to generation, and a big part of why we're doing this tonight is to give the next generation memories."

Over the last decade of debate, Twins fans have dealt with talk of relocation and contraction. The bill, among other things, includes a 30-year, iron-clad lease that guarantees the team's future in Minnesota.

"We are preserving baseball for generations to come," said Twins Sports Inc. president Jerry Bell.

The new stadium will be located in the Warehouse District north of the Target Center, and it will be ready for the start of the 2010 season. The $522 million project -- $130 million of which will be paid by the club -- will fund the 42,000-seat, natural grass ballpark that has a view of the Minneapolis downtown skyline.

"Tonight, we start a fantastic journey to build the best ballpark in America," Hennepin County commissioner Mike Opat said.

Ground is scheduled to be broken in the fall of 2007, which will begin a transition back to an open-air venue for the Twins. The team played at open-air Met Stadium from the time it moved to Minnesota in 1961 until 1981. The Twins have played indoors at the Metrodome since 1982.

"It's been a long time coming," manger Ron Gardenhire said. "And it's very exciting to see the governor out here and sign a bill. I'd like to be over there when they have the first shovel digging in the ground with a hard hat on. That'd be a pretty good moment, too."

Seventeen former Twins players were at the ceremony, including Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Tony Oliva.

Jason Brummond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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