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A "political maelstrom continued to swirl" around St. Paul's bid for a $130M hockey arena, as arena "protagonists" faced off with "new financing plans, veto threats, and demands for new investigations of the fledgling NHL [Wild's] operations," according to Whereatt & Brown of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. On Friday, MN Gov. Arne Carlson threatened to veto a capital improvements bill "if it does not contain" the $65M earmarked for the arena, while State Senator Dean Johnson requested that the state "investigate financial arrangements" between the Wild, the city and arena construction manager M.A. Mortenson. Wild CEO Jac Sperling said Friday that while the team's ties with Mortenson were "legal," he did "acknowledge" that they "were causing damage to the city's efforts" to get state money for the arena. Sperling "reiterated" that no promises were made to "reward Mortenson for its $100,000 loan" which helped pay the team's NHL application fee (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/21). OTHER QUESTIONS: In St. Paul, Laszewski & Reeve wrote that a "number of questions remain" about the Wild's finances. A list of investors released "omitted three -- two from out of state and one from MN -- who refused to have their names be made public." However, Sperling said that those investors "have no other involvement in the team." The "amount of money the limited partnership controls also remains a secret" (PIONEER PRESS, 3/21). But Sperling said, "We want to be as cooperative and open as possible. We do not have anything to hide here" (PIONEER PRESS, 3/21).
Tropicana Field, which hosted this weekend's NCAA men's south regional and is scheduled to host next year's men's Final Four, received mixed reviews from fans and media this weekend. In Tampa, George Coryell wrote that "problems" remained as the facility opened Friday night and Tampa resident Fred Kurtzman called the facility "disgusting." Kurtzman: "I mean, the seats are still full of dirt." However, Coryell reported that "for all the criticism ... most fans were forgiving" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/21). In Tampa, Ryan & Minai wrote on the facility's "weaknesses:" the "scarcity" of lights on surrounding streets which had fans "nervous" as they left the games; a "lack of staffed ticket windows;" ATMs and pay phones "scattered throughout" the arena, many of which "didn't work;" and a lack of ushers to help fans to their correct seats (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/22). In Philadelphia, Bill Conlin writes that with just eight days remaining before the Devil Rays are due to open their season, the stadium "isn't close to ready." Conlin: "Leaks are everywhere, even in the Ebbets Field-style rotunda that will be the main entrance" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/23). AFTERMATH: Despite the problems, "[n]othing huge" tarnished Tropicana Field's effort to join the list of elite sites for major sports events, "but there were enough irritating nuisances" to demonstrate why it is "not yet" on that list, reports David Rogers of the ST. PETE TIMES. Two power outages delayed yesterday's Duke-KY regional final, one of which lasted four minutes (ST. PETE TIMES, 3/23).