Gino Terrell was supposed to be spending Thursday afternoon at Target Field, high-fiving fans and interacting with the Twins’ TC Bear mascot as part of the “Rally Squad” at the home opener against the A’s. It’s one of the 60 or so home games the Hamline University graduate was planning to work this season, an important source of his summertime income.
Terrell is one of about 1,400 part-time Twins employees who won’t get the chance to work that game, canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. But he and the rest of the Twins’ ballpark workers — the ticket-takers and ushers and scoreboard and elevator operators and security personnel, among others — will still get at least part of their wages.
By the end of the week, the Twins will distribute partial April wages to each of those employees, doling out a significant portion of the $1 million pledge the team made, and now appears certain to exceed that mark by at least $200,000, to its seasonal workers.
“To me, it’s a huge deal. To a lot of people it is,” said Terrell, who has worked Target Field games for the past three seasons. “I can’t do my other job [as a brand ambassador at corporate events] either. There aren’t any gigs during coronavirus. So I’m looking for ways to make money, and [getting a Twins paycheck] would be huge.”
That’s the idea, Twins President Dave St. Peter said.
“We recognize that, when you’re dealing with a couple thousand employees, there are some people who rely on their income from Twins games,” he said. “I know many also work Wild or Wolves or Vikings games, and now their sole source of income is gone. In some cases, it’s absolutely critical for people trying to pay rent and go about their lives during all this.”
The Twins hope to go a step farther, too. Workers at the stadium’s concession stands, cleaners who sweep up the stands after games, even the baby sitters who mind the players’ children in the team’s family room — none of them are Twins employees. There are roughly 800-900 such workers, employees of companies who work on contract with the Twins, and with the baseball season on hold, many of them have been laid off with little or no assistance from their employers.
For them, the Twins are setting up the Target Field Employee Assistance Fund, and making a “significant” (though unspecified) contribution as seed money to help workers in need. Within the next 10 days, St. Peter said, the Twins intend to contact them and begin taking online applications for those funds, “in hopes of making emergency response grants sometime by the middle of April.”
Some Twins players and other employees “have approached us about contributing to that fund, with the hopes that those dollars will find their way to help seasonal ballpark employees who might be in need,” St. Peter said. “We put a lot of emphasis on the players on the diamond, but there are hundreds if not thousands of people who over the course of a season help shape the Target Field experience, and who are going through a time of need.”
Delaware North Sportservice operates all concession stands at Target Field and at least 20 other Major League ballparks, a business that also includes dozens of arenas, concert venues, casinos and airports and generated more than $3 billion in revenue last year. The company, owned by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, is the largest non-Twins employer at Target Field, and last month announced it was laying off all 55,000 part-time workers, plus 3,100 full-time employees.
The Twins have committed to no layoffs among their 400 full-time Minnesota employees at least through April, too. But they aren’t the only pro sports teams in Minnesota trying to keep their employees compensated while games are canceled. The Wild, for instance, have continued to pay all employees for games that weren’t played.
“I don’t want to oversell this. I don’t want it to appear that we’re making every employee whole, because we’re not. We can’t,” St. Peter said. “We’ll take it month to month. Ultimately, playing baseball again is the best way to generate paychecks for our employees. But for now, it’s going to be helpful relief at a time when rent checks are due.”