Over at the SBG site today, the man refreshed from honeymooning in Hawaii has some provocative thoughts on how a collector's spending to acquire the Twins medallion series may put into relative perspective the expected cost to each individual consumer in Hennepin County to fund the Twins ballpark plan. According to the ballpark plan in the legislature, I would have to spend $54,000 in Hennepin County before my contribution to the project funding would match the $81 I was willing to drop in 25 days to collect a complete set of Twins medallions. SBG acknowledges the difference between a tax and discretionary spending, but still--how long would it take you to spend $54,000 in Hennepin County, excluding housing, groceries, and clothing?
Just to be clear: I personally don't have a problem with paying contributions towards getting a ballpark built. I just oppose the deal on the table because I think the public deserves a fair cut of the revenue streams in return for funding 75% of the project. When the general public is asked for $353 million to fund an enterprise that is expected to generate large profits, it's only right that we should get cut in for our fair share of the returns. In lieu of that kind of deal, most of the public have not been persuaded by the arguments put forth by ballpark supporters.
However, SBG mentioning the difference between taxes and discretionary spending got me thinking that ballpark proponents might tip the scales in their favor if the project plan called for public funding to come from fees attached to Twins tickets and items bought inside the new ballpark. In effect, the funding then would be paid at the discretion of fans who choose to come to Twins games.
The state could also create a specially themed scratch-lottery game and offer special Twins/ballpark license plates, as they did in Washington state and other places. Why not sell series of collectibles, like medallions or bobbleheads, to raise money for the project, too? These are all more forms of discretionary spending that would allow ballpark proponents to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak.
It's clear that the general public is not being won over by the "quality of life" arguments that compare a stadium giveaway to public parks and the Guthrie. They're not convinced that the promised economic boon in the Warehouse District is worth the $353 million public investment. The idea of limiting the public contribution to a sales tax in Hennepin County has given some state politicians comfort, but it hasn't swung the polls in favor of the project. To this point, the Twins have not indicated a willingness to share the new revenue streams created by the ballpark; it's clear they expect to keep it all. So if the current proposal in the legislature fails because a referendum gets attached, what else can ballpark proponents do to break the impasse?
I've seen a number of Twins fans say they don't care who profits off this deal, and they may not even care much about the project location, who pays for it, or any other details in the fine print. They just want a new ballpark. So, if the current plan dies, let Twins fans tell the state:
We're ready to pay for this project ourselves. If it lines the pockets of Carl Pohlad and some restaurant and bar owners downtown, bless their hearts. We don't care. We'll gladly pay fees added to our tickets and concessions. We'll buy lottery tickets and license plates. We'll buy more bobbleheads and medallions. Whatever. We just want our new ballpark. Since we're paying, this is all we ask: put a retractable roof on it, please. And make it better than Milwaukee's.