Saint Paul Pioneer Press

Start trying to avert sports team crises

June 19, 1995

Sad and incredible as it seems, the Twin Cities' problems with professional sports teams have only begun. The costliest and most polarizing decisions may lie ahead.

Unless this metro area is prepared to at least sweeten the local financial deal for the Twins and the Vikings, the baseball team will almost certainly be gone before the end of this decade. And there is no ironclad guarantee about the football franchise.

Local and state officials are right to initiate a community discussion of these disagreeable facts. Minnesotans learned with the North Stars and Timberwolves ordeals that once teams are "in play," with explicit offers from other communities, the angry panic atmosphere obstructs level-headed debate. That debate should focus on the value of professional sports, and about which taxpayers should be asked to go how far to keep teams in town.

So the public should welcome remarks from Minneapolis City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes that she is eager to help head off the looming sports crises. State Rep. Dee Long and Sen. Jim Vickerman, chairs of legislative committees on metropolitan affairs, are also timely in urging the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to formally study the challenges posed by the bizarre new economics of professional sports.

Commission sources say it's likely a blue-ribbon panel will soon be chosen.

The royal ransoms American states and cities are eagerly paying nowadays to steal and protect sports franchises are economically absurd, especially for the national economy considered as a whole. Minnesota's congressional delegation should lead efforts to suppress interstate bidding wars for sports teams and other businesses.

But in the meantime Minnesota can't ignore the threat of profligate competition from other communities. Losing the Twins or the Vikings is a revolting prospect in ways both practical and psychological.

The time is ripe to face what we're up against and design a strategy.

Reprinted with permission of the Pioneer Press.

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