As we approach the final weeks of the 2006 season, it?s safe to say that the current campaign will go down as one of the more memorable stretches in the 46-year history of the Minnesota Twins franchise. The remarkable on-field run has the club contending for a fourth postseason appearance in five years, total attendance is on pace to surpass 2.2 to 2.3 million fans, and interest in Twins baseball across the region is soaring as demonstrated by some of the top television and radio viewership and listenership ratings.
Meanwhile, the single most significant development during the 2006 season took place last week when the board of Hennepin County Commissioners voted to authorize a .015 percent county-wide sales tax with proceeds directed to fund a portion of a new Twins ballpark in the Minneapolis Warehouse District. Last Tuesday?s vote represented the final hurdle in a ten-year struggle to finance a ballpark and preserve Twins baseball for future generations.
Years from now, long after the new ballpark is opened, I?m quite confident the citizens of Hennepin County, the State of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest will look back at this period of time and recognize the significance of last week?s 4-3 vote.
Last May, in the wake of securing legislative approval for the Twins-Hennepin County ballpark bill, we offered well-deserved kudos to Governor Tim Pawlenty, Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum and many others for their efforts to support the plan and resolve this important issue in a bi-partisan manner. There is no question that everyone mentioned above played a HUGE role in getting a ballpark approved and thus ensuring the long-term viability of baseball in this community.
However, the true heroes of the day are Hennepin County commissioners Mike Opat, Randy Johnson, Peter McLaughlin and Mark Stenglein. These are the gentleman who demonstrated the vision to dream about what a 42,000-seat open-air ballpark could do for Minnesota and downtown Minneapolis. These are the officials who filled the ?leadership void? on this issue by coming forward with a comprehensive plan and delivering a fair, responsible solution. Most importantly, these are the leaders who showed incredible courage for standing by their convictions in the face of criticism and attack from various sectors of the public.
Yes, Mike Opat, Randy Johnson, Peter McLaughlin and Mark Stenglein deserve the credit for their unwavering leadership and support of the Twins-Hennepin County ballpark plan. They also deserve special THANK YOUs from Twins fans across the region.
In a year when players such as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan and others have made the Twins one of baseball?s top teams, history will show that commissioners Opat, Johnson, McLaughlin and Stenglein have made the most significant contributions to Upper Midwest baseball in 2006. Well done.
Dave St. Peter
Ballpark Idea of the Week: A heated field would insure games in late spring or early fall not be adversely affected by unseasonably cold weather; at least minimize the delay. Such a field would also insure a premium-playing surface for the athletes. Such a playing surface would provide an astatically pleasing look for ballpark patrons during late spring or early fall. — Greg from Minneapolis