Not even in the World Series have the Twins scored a victory as important as last weekend's triumph at the State Capitol.
Not even in the World Series have the Twins scored a victory as important as last weekend's triumph at the State Capitol. A new open-air ballpark in downtown Minneapolis secures baseball in Minnesota for generations to come. The benefits will flow not to team owner Carl Pohlad (he's 90) or to wealthy players (they can always find a new city), but to millions of ordinary people throughout the Upper Midwest for whom the Twins are a part of life's fabric. Without a new home the team would not have survived many more seasons in Minnesota.
Bolstered also is the competitive posture of the Twin Cities. In blessing the Twins-Hennepin County project, legislators affirmed this state's intention to compete for jobs and talent in a national marketplace where people can choose their city and where amenities -- including arts and sports -- matter increasingly.
The Metrodome, for all its sterile practicality, killed the poetry so essential to baseball -- and to another atmospheric sport: college football. By also approving a new on-campus stadium at the University of Minnesota, legislators affirmed that higher-education investment is not a zero-sum proposition. A lively and engaging sports program produces a spirit and a loyalty which, in turn, can help propel a university's popularity, academic success and economic impact.
But the Twins' victory was especially sweet considering their torturous stadium odyssey stretching back to 1995. Gov. Tim Pawlenty deserves credit for crafting the framework and prodding behind the scenes. House Speaker Steve Sviggum and Rep. Brad Finstad, R-New Ulm, the bill's sponsor, were stalwarts, and Senate DFL Leader Dean Johnson came through in the late innings.
But the real heroes sit on the Hennepin County Board. Future generations should be especially grateful to commissioners Mike Opat, Peter McLaughlin, Mark Stenglein and Chairman Randy Johnson. They supplied the true courage and foresight. They cast the tough votes. They stepped forward where the Legislature had failed. McLaughlin's insistence that the project benefit youth sports and libraries was important. Johnson and Stenglein built bridges to the governor and the Republican House.
But Opat did the heaviest lifting. He negotiated a tough deal with the Twins and never wavered in placing Minnesota's future ahead of day-to-day politics. "We had forgotten how to dream in this state. We need to dream. We need sometimes to do the things we want to do, not just the things we have to do," he said. "Not everything revolves around adding social services or cutting taxes."
The ballpark, along with light rail, represent a turning point for Minnesota in recognizing the need to renew its civic infrastructure, he said. We also hope that corner has been turned. Life will be better in these parts with Twins baseball under the sun and stars, and with Gophers football back on campus. Minnesotans will one day appreciate these decisions. -- Minneapolis Star Tribune