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Court rules against Twins in Metrodome lease case
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
January 22, 2002

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court's temporary injunction requiring the Twins to play baseball in the Metrodome this year. The ruling is a victory for Twins fans hoping to at least delay plans to fold the franchise. But attorneys for the team and Major League Baseball criticized the ruling, and they say they'll appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, says the Appeals Court ruling makes it unlikely that the league can move forward with contraction this year. Listen to his comments.
(MPR Photo/Michael Khoo)

The original injunction was granted late last year, soon after Major League Baseball owners voted to eliminate two teams before the start of this year's season. The Twins are considered a top candidate for contraction, but the Appeals Court ruling has put a kink in that plan.

Bill Lester, the executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns and operates the Metrodome, says without the lawsuit, the Twins might have been gone by now.

"The commission has the opportunity to look forward to baseball in Minnesota for this coming season. And contraction may not be dead. But the line is getting flatter and flatter as we speak," he said.

The Twins declined to comment directly, but an attorney representing the team and the league says they will quickly appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

The attorney, Roger Magnuson, says if the Supreme Court grants a speedy review of the case, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's contraction plans could still go on.

MPR's Midday broadcast on Jan. 23, 2002 discussed the future of the Minnesota Twins. Listen to excerpts from the program.

•Roger Magnuson, Twins attorney, says the team will appeal the Appeals Court ruling. Listen

•Sandra Gardebring, former justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court on the chances an appeal would have. Listen

•Dean Barkley, director of Minnesota Planning and member of the task force on stadiums, discusses the chances for state funding or financing of a new stadium for the team. Listen

•Rep. Harry Mares, R-White Bear Lake, sponsor of stadium legislation in 2001, discusses the chances for a stadium bill this session. Listen

•Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, on the mood at the Capitol for stadium legislation. Listen

•Jim Souhan, sportswriter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, discusses the on-the-field prospects for the team. Listen

•Kevin Cattoor, Chief Operating Officer for the Minnesota Twins, discusses the '02 season. Listen

"Commissioner Selig has said that contraction could happen - if it does happen at all - as late as late February or maybe even later. But obviously there is a point at which contraction becomes impossible at some point; presumably before someone throws out the first pitch," Magnuson said.

The Twins are arguing the injunction is an unwarranted intrusion into a private business decision about whether the team should play this year. But the Appeals Court found that a Henepin County District Court judge acted within his authority when he ruled that allowing the Twins to escape the final year of their Metrodome lease could cause irreparable harm to the public.

Noting that the team pays no rent for using the facilities, the Appeals Court reasoned the use-agreement between the Twins and the commission was not a standard landlord-tenant lease. That agreement, however, expires in the fall. But commission officials say they'll fight contraction in court even if it returns after the lease runs out.

"It would be our argument that Major League Baseball would be interfering with the relationship - the business relationship - between the commission and the Twins. And that is a tort as we call it in law. And that an injunction on that basis would be available as well," said Attorney Andy Shea, who represents the commission.

Shea says without the option of contraction, the Twins would likely renew their lease at the end of the season, and he reasons the commission can go to court to keep the league from interfering with that process. But the commission is also supporting the Twins in their push for a new ballpark, saying that's the only way to guarantee the long-term success of the franchise.

A tripartisan stadium task force is expected to release a draft report later this week, outlining its support for two new stadiums - one for the Twins and one to be shared by the Vikings and the University of Minnesota Gophers.

Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe says lawmakers would like to resolve the issue one way or another in the next few months.

"We've got at least a blueprint that will be issued by the commission. And I think that there is a seriousness in the Legislature. I think folks generally want to try to do something. I think that the public in general want to see the Twins continue to play in Minnesota," Moe said.

But Moe cautions the stadium debate has to kept in proper perspective. He says many more pressing issues, such as a projected $2 billion deficit, transportation improvements, and homeland security, will demand lawmakers' attentions.

More from MPR
  • Homer Hanky jurisprudence Twins, Sports Facilities Commission, argue case before Minnesota Court of Appeals (12/27/01)
  • Judge Crump's original injunction (11/16/01)
  • Session 2002 Issue Briefing: Stadium

    More Information
  • Read the complete ruling Minnesota Court of Appeals Web site