Rather than a bully pulpit for extreme pro- or anti-stadium opinions (you can read the Star Tribune opinion page for those!), I hope this will be a series for reasoned discussion of the new Twins ballpark.
Ballpark Talk Part 2: A Reasonable Solution
As I pointed out in Part 1, the mass of the public isn't opposed outright to funding a new ballpark, but they haven't been fully convinced by the Twins offers thus far, including the Hennepin County plan. Something has to change to get this done, especially in an election year. Most folks would assume I'm suggesting an increased Twins/MLB contribution, and while that would be helpful, it's not bloody likely. I contend that one relatively minor change would make the current plan much more palatable to the public, and it would also make the Twins appear more community-conscious and the politicians appear to be good negotiators.
The change? Protected naming rights.
Notice how I didn't just say "naming rights," I said PROTECTED naming rights. Meaning that Carl and the Twins could still name it whatever they pleased, but they couldn't sell the name. As Sid Hartman has been known to shout on the radio, "Pohlad wouldn't own the stadium! The public would own it!" So if the public indeed owns the building, and is only leasing it to the Twins for 81 dates a year, it's only fair that the public should have some control over this proposed community monument. The name will be the most visible part of the stadium for most folks. I wouldn't be opposed to taking full naming rights for the public, but frankly, I don't want to leave any more decisions in the hands of politicians! Plus, if Carl wants to name the stadium for his dearly departed wife and big Twins fan Eloise, or another name connected with the Twins franchise, I think the Twins would be less likely to ever leave the stadium. Their ties to it would be more than financial, which would mean extra security for the public's investment.
Of course, the Twins will claim that selling the naming rights is another revenue source that they need from the new ballpark. It has been estimated that a corporate name sponsor could bring in an additional $2 million per year in revenue. But compared to the new-found club seat and luxury box revenues, not to mention increased attendance, bigger media contracts, and skyrocketing franchise value, this naming rights money is a relative drop in the bucket. And simply put, the name will be the most visible and sacred element of this stadium in the public's eye. Protecting the name would bring much-needed goodwill to a project that's been sorely lacking, exceeding any revenue potential the name may have.
Some might also suggest that the public sell the naming rights and apply the money toward the cost of the project. This is an option too, and could be of vital importance in covering the estimated $30 million increase in project costs since last year. Either way, this compromise would be the closest thing to public negotiation that has ever taken place in the decade-long stadium debate. The most frustrating thing about this whole affair is that the Twins attitude has always been "take it or leave it" and our elected officials have just simply left it. The public needs something positive to get behind this plan. Naming rights, or just protected naming rights, as a product of negotiation, would be a remarkable step in that direction.
Next time, in part 3, I'll discuss some of my "wilder" stadium ideas and solicit the same from all of you!