Bloom: New stadiums burnish Selig's legacy

Bloom: New stadiums burnish Selig's legacy

MINNEAPOLIS -- With Major League owners, general managers and officials here for meetings this week, the Twins were able to showcase their new ballpark even though the team was out of town.

The Twins hosted a dinner for the group on Wednesday night in a Target Field restaurant called the Met Club and were awarded all the appropriate accolades.

"It was a fabulous evening," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "It was a beautiful night in a beautiful setting at a sensational ballpark."

From first suggestion to first game this past April, downtown Target Field was 15 years in the making, which is not uncommon for the funding and construction of new ballparks. Meanwhile, Selig is approaching one of his major objectives: new or refurbished ballparks for each of Major League Baseball's 30 franchises.

"As far as the renaissance of baseball and what new facilities meant to that period, it's a huge part [of his legacy], a huge part," Dave St. Peter, the Twins president, told MLB.com on Friday night. "In certain communities, it has been a struggle. But Commissioner Selig's stick-to-itiveness and his passion to makes sure that baseball is thriving in each community is a big part of his contribution to making the game better over the long term."

Struggle? A ballpark that took 19 years to develop in Miami is well under construction and is expected to debut for the Marlins in time for the 2012 season. The Ricketts family is planning a significant renovation of Wrigley Field.

That leaves Oakland and Tampa Bay as the only clubs without a new or revamped facility. Officials from both teams and MLB are working on it. An MLB committee analyzing the A's situation is ongoing, Selig said on Thursday as the meetings concluded. But as he so often says, quoting his late father, "Don't get it done quickly, just get it done right."

Such were the herculean political efforts that produced new ballparks here, in New York and Washington, all of them fraught with potholes and problems.

"It was worth it," Selig said about the fight. "It's always worth it in the end. Look, nobody ever said that life is easy. Nobody ever said that some of these processes were ever easy. You can look back in retrospect and say there were a lot of difficulties, but here we are."

There's no disputing that fact. On a beautiful 75-degree Friday evening, the Twins came home from a 10-game trip, defeated the A's, 4-3, and played baseball under the stars in front of another sellout, their 52nd of the season. In this new Twins era, they have significantly increased revenue, increased player payroll and kept a home-grown player like Joe Mauer, who was signed for eight years at $184 million.

That would have never happened playing in the Metrodome, where the Twins subsisted as a major revenue-sharing collector. In 2002, they were earmarked for contraction. Now, they are a thriving middle-market team.

"It doesn't seem like that could have been the same franchise," St. Peter said. "We certainly understand it was, having gone through some of the struggles we went through as an organization. It keeps us grounded, and frankly, I think we all really appreciate the success we're having right now. I can assure you no one in this organization takes it for granted."

To get there, the Pohlad family, which owns the team, made a $195 million contribution to the ballpark, which in the end cost $535.5 million. The community financed its portion of construction with an 0.15 percent sales tax in Hennepin County.

The public-private model is not so unusual. The Yankees, Mets, Cardinals and Giants all paid the entire freight of their ballpark construction with infrastructure help from their communities. The Padres paid $150 million toward the building of San Diego's PETCO Park.

And if naysayers wonder if these ballparks have a direct impact on city development, just travel to San Diego, Washington or Denver to see what has sprouted in once-moribund warehouse districts. Talk about a tree growing in Brooklyn, condos, high rises, restaurants and hotels now abound around these recently built ballparks.

In Minneapolis, the parcel of land behind the Target Center basketball arena was once a parking lot bifurcated by a freeway overpass. Now, it's a go-to destination at least 81 times a year for 40,000-plus people.

"Clearly, if you take a look out here and see what Target Field means to downtown Minneapolis and the warehouse district, compared to what the Twins meant when we played in the Metrodome, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison," St. Peter said. "There is no comparison."

Thriving communities, thriving franchises, happy fans. It's a win-win situation for everybody. And as St. Peter concluded, none of it might have happened without Selig's help and behind-the-scenes perseverance.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.