FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins are eight days from opening their 10th season in Target Field. The results in the standings are not what was anticipated, certainly not after the tremendous opening season of 2010. Those Twins won 94 games, a sixth AL Central title in nine years and sold 3,223,640 tickets, a franchise record that could stand for baseball’s eternity.
The Twins have been in the playoffs once since then, for a wild-card loss in 2017, and have lost between 92 and 103 games five times.
Mostly, blame pitching … certainly not the ballpark.
In this era of taxpayers across the nation being gouged excessively to finance stadiums to maintain an area’s major league status, Target Field has been a triumph for both the method of collecting the public dollars and the share of the millions coming from the primary tenant.
The state and the city of Minneapolis were unwilling to participate, and it took the Hennepin County commissioners to put their heads on the guillotine and guarantee the future of major league baseball in Minnesota.
They did this by approving a .15 percent sales tax in Hennepin County – three cents on a $20 purchase, as proponents always would say, and as close to pain free as you could get to wind up with a beautiful urban ballpark, and fit miraculously into small acreage.
The original construction cost was to be $390 million -- $260 million from a ballpark authority through the sales tax, and $130 million from the Twins. Hennepin County also budgeted $90 million for infrastructure (land, etc.), and the Twins added $15 million when that fund came up short.
The Twins also added $45.5 million as the stadium was being built. On opening day, the county was on the hook for $350 million (plus interest) and the Twins had committed to $190.5 million.
The Twins and the naming sponsor, Target, also split the $9 million cost for the plaza that serves as the gateway to the ballpark.
The Twins have continued to make improvements during Target Field’s first decade. With this year’s changes, the Twins will have spent $42 million to update the stadium since it opened.
Give the Twins credit for half the cost of Target Plaza and the team has now added $107 million to its original $130 million for a total of $237 million. Hennepin County’s number is $350 million.
(Note: The authority and the Twins also have split the cost of another $6.7 million in recent projects, but that complicates the math.)
The Twins are now at 40 percent of the dollars put into Target Field, and are the reason that it’s a better ballpark than when it opened for an exhibition game vs. the Cardinals on April 2, 2010.
This seemed worth a look after the recent report that Hennepin County has been able to fund $23 million worth of youth sports projects through the same .15 sales tax used to create Target Field.
Mike Opat, the Hennepin County Commissioner who was at the forefront of the push to build a ballpark and maintain the Twins in Minnesota, said: “We’ve also spent a like amount -- $23 million – to keep our libraries open on weekends and longer hours as part of the Target Field initiative. And that library fund is going to last through the 30 years of the Twins’ lease.
“Libraries and youth sports. Hennepin County wants our youngsters to be both athletic and literate.’’
Opat laughed at this, but he's also proud that 10 seasons later, the Target Field effort has guaranteed a baseball franchise, completed playgrounds and kept open librairies.