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).