Hartman: Minneapolis aiming to be stadium player

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 1, 2011 - 7:03 AM

Mayor R.T. Rybak and Council President Barbara Johnson have viable financing and site plans on the table.

After having lunch with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson last week, and then having them as guests on the WCCO Sunday "Sports Huddle," I am convinced the two city leaders really are eager to work out a deal to have a Vikings stadium built in Minneapolis should the Arden Hills proposal fall through.

While Rybak and Johnson have been accused of not working to have the stadium built in Minneapolis until the Arden Hill project got hot, both deny this is the case.

"The Vikings and us have been talking about plans for downtown Minneapolis for about three or four years," said Rybak. "When [the Wilfs] came to town we met with them, we talked about redeveloping the Metrodome site. We've had discussions with them. [Vikings vice president] Lester Bagley was in a meeting with us the other day."

However, Bagley wasn't allowed to talk to Rybak about the stadium until very recently after the Wilf family became upset after Rybak announced a stadium plan the same day the Vikings announced Arden Hills as their favored site.

Rybak claims a stadium can be built on the Metrodome site for a lot less money than it can be in Arden Hills. And he said there are a couple of other site options on the table.

"Our original idea was to broaden the sales tax in Minneapolis and then also use part of our convention center tax and put those together into a pool," Rybak said. "It's important to remember that the convention center tax is a critically important tax for the state of Minnesota because Minneapolis every year generates more than $400 million in sales taxes to the state."

Rybak and Johnson claim they can gain support for the Vikings stadium in Minneapolis with their plan that also would enable them to take care of remodeling Target Center. Since that arena is supported by property taxes, their proposal would reduce those taxes in Minneapolis, something residents could support.

Johnson admits there is one big obstacle that the city will have to overcome: "We do have a charter, a requirement that if we spend more than $10 million, there needs to be a referendum."

That might kill any chance of Minneapolis being involved in the battle for the stadium location. The only way for the city to overcome that problem is for the Legislature to vote in favor of eliminating that charter.

New offers

Twins President David St. Peter said the team has made offers to free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel that are different than ones made during the regular season. The Twins reportedly offered Cuddyer a two-year deal for $16 million. Kubel also was approached during the season, but wants to test the market.

Bill Smith, who was replaced as the Twins general manager by Terry Ryan, is still on the team payroll. The Twins still have a spot in the front office and the hope is Smith will accept a position when he and St. Peter talk in about a week.

St. Peter said former Twins pitcher Jack Morris turned down an offer to be the pitching coach of their Gulf Coast League team, but the hope is that Morris will reconsider.

Jim Rantz said one of the toughest things he has had to do in his 25 years as Twins farm director was to release Toby Gardenhire, son of manager Ron Gardenhire, after Toby had been with the organization for seven years.

"Toby is a heck of a young man that made our Triple-A club the last couple of years and made it a better club because he is so versatile, he can play every position, including catch," Rantz said. "He had a good year last year, unfortunately we just thought that it was time to move on and change it up a little bit. I know Toby wants to continue to play. I talked to Gardy, his father, about the situation, and he was much appreciative that we gave Toby a chance. After seven years, you know, of being in the system, it was a tough call."

The Twins have also released Derek McCallum, a former Gopher who was a fourth-round pick in 2009.

Jottings

• The $300 top price for tickets to the Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney concert at Target Field on July 8 is only for 1,000 to 1,500 ticket-holders to stand right in front of the stage.

• There is no longer any question whether former Washburn star Ra'Shede Hageman will be an outstanding player after his great performance Saturday with two sacks and one forced fumble in the Gophers' victory over Illinois.

The University of Minnesota band [about 300 members] outnumbered the students at the game Saturday. It's been a real challenge for campus officials to get the students interested in Gophers sports.

• Derek Rackley, an outstanding long snapper/tight end for the Gophers from 1996 to '99, is employed by the Big Ten Network and did the color commentary on the Gophers game with Illinois. Rackley played eight seasons in the NFL as a long snapper, including his first six with the Falcons. On Oct. 26, he held his 10th annual golf tournament in Suwanee, Ga. The tournament raises money for two charities: the Fragile Kids Foundation and the R.A.C.K. Foundation, which provides two $5,000 scholarships to student- athletes from Apple Valley High School, Rackley's alma mater.

• Former Twins lefthander Jim Kaat, one of the 10 candidates (along with Tony Oliva) under consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame by its Veterans Committee next week, appeared on Bob Costas' MLB Network show Monday. Asked about his relationship with former Twins owner Calvin Griffith, Kaat said: "I had a contract squabble with Calvin every year. ... Calvin one day said, 'Can you go downtown ... and earn $18,000 a year working at any place in Minneapolis?' I would say, 'Can you go out on Cedar Avenue and find a lefthanded pitcher who can win 18 games for you?'" But he looked fondly upon his time with the Twins, saying: "It was such a great wholesome atmosphere and they were so thrilled to have big-league baseball. Even though the first year we were not a contending team, but we were so well accepted and it was a great place to play."

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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