The Minnesota Twins are a unique sports team and an asset to Minnesota, and likely need a new stadium to survive. However, subsidizing owner Carl Pohlad’s wealth is repugnant. This would seem to be a choice between two evils. But there is another option: The public could buy the Twins.
State House and Senate committees have recommended two bills that would authorize Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to pursue various versions of community ownership of the Twins. Given both positives and negatives to public acquisition of the Twins, the Legislature should pass the bills to facilitate further investigation.
The model for the Twins would be the Green Bay Packers, a team that is community-owned. It’s hard to tell what drives the unique mutual affection between the Packers and their fans, but community ownership seems a large part of it.
The Twins would be relatively inexpensive as professional sports teams go, carrying a price tag of approximately $140 million. Also, sports teams are usually a good investment and the Twins have appreciated 40 percent over the last seven years. While this annual return of about 5 percent is not spectacular, this appreciation occurred while the Twins played in substandard facilities.
The primary downside is that even a community-owned Twins franchise likely still needs a new stadium. Without one, the Twins would probably continue to lose money, with the public covering the losses. More problematically, Major League Baseball will likely re-attempt to eliminate them through contraction. MLB’s structure poses other problems for the Twins. To stay competitive and become profitable, the Twins need better revenue sharing among teams and a salary cap to become realities. Without these changes, the Twins and other small-market teams will continue to have both competitive and financial difficulties.
This all brings us back to the public funding a Twins stadium, which many people rightfully oppose. But if the public owned the Twins, the funding would be less objectionable as it would be more an investment and less a tax.