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Stadium Games

Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles

2000
Author:

Jay Weiner

Stadium Games

The inside story of one state’s struggle with professional sports.

In Stadium Games, veteran Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Jay Weiner analyzes Minnesota’s fifty-year history with pro sports and the issues contributing to the bid for a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins, along the way providing a big-picture evaluation of national sports economics.

“Jay Weiner is my new role model as a thoughtful, precise and idealistic fan. Weiner’s new book, Stadium Games, is a lesson in politics and economics by a writer who believes that a city may well need a major league team to be major league. But Weiner goes on with pragmatic suggestions on how fans can make this all work in their best interests.”

Robert Lipsyte, New York Times

The inside story of one state’s struggle with professional sports.

From Seattle to Houston to New York, governments and taxpayers are grappling with how to pay for new major league sports facilities. Support for public funding is down-sports fans feel alienated in the face of team owners’ demands, threats to leave, and spiraling player salaries. In Stadium Games, veteran Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Jay Weiner zooms in on Minnesota’s fifty-year history with pro sports and the issues contributing to the bid for a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins, along the way providing a big-picture evaluation of national sports economics.

Stadium Games begins with the events leading to the arrival of the Twins and Vikings to the state in 1961 and traces subsequent controversies about professional sports in the region up to the present. Weiner discusses the factors that make Minnesota the poster child for the nation’s stadium debates-the recent departure of the North Stars hockey team, the near departure of the Timberwolves, the strong opposition of taxpayers, and the apparent greed of team owners. In an account full of stories, scandals, and colorful personalities, Weiner reveals the behind-the-scenes deals and inside scoop on what went wrong in the unsuccessful 1997 campaign for a new ballpark, divulging how public relations experts failed and how government leaders conspired to fake out Minnesota’s citizenry.

Weiner concludes with a "call to reason"-a manifesto on how Minnesota and other small markets can take back pro sports and begin a new kind of conversation about what stadiums and teams can mean to their communities.


Stadium Games

Jay Weiner is a sports reporter with the Minneapolis Star Tribune. For the past decade, his work has focused on the business and political aspects of pro sports. He also frequently delivers sports commentary on Minnesota Public Radio, and his reporting and analysis have appeared in the New York Times and Business Week.

Stadium Games

“Jay Weiner is my new role model as a thoughtful, precise and idealistic fan. Weiner’s new book, Stadium Games, is a lesson in politics and economics by a writer who believes that a city may well need a major league team to be major league. But Weiner goes on with pragmatic suggestions on how fans can make this all work in their best interests.”

Robert Lipsyte, New York Times

“There are stadium lovers, and there are stadium haters. And then there’s Jay Weiner. A self-proclaimed centrist in the sports-subsidy wars, the longtime Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter unreels a history of Twin Cities ballpark shenanigans that put George Steinbrenner’s periodic threats to move the Yankees to Ho-Ho-Kus to shame.”

Village Voice

Stadium Games is a spectacular creation. . . . As the Star Tribune’s main reporter of Minnesota’s protracted, internecine stadium wars, Weiner brings a unique perspective to a story that seems to have worn out the patience of even the true believers on both sides. Weiner spins a tale of civic bungling, greed, absurdity and dashed hopes, and the result is a sort of fin de siecle American Bleak House meets Waiting for Godot. Weiner’s monument to what he calls Minnesota’s ‘edifice complex’ is a frustrating cautionary tale, chock full of infighting, backbiting, finger-pointing, cross-purpose negotiations and intrigue. . . . Weiner holds on to the belief that major-league sports are an important part of a community’s fabric, and under the right circumstances, a worthwhile investment. He contends that professional sports provide, through memories and shared experiences, a connection with parents, children, and neighbors, that a tailgate party can be a sort of regional campfire. He envisions an inner-city ballpark built to a reasonable scale, integrated with its neighborhood and housing street-front shops, restaurants, police sub-stations, barbers and clinic

the whole thing overseen by a newly created statewide agency. ‘I think,’ he writes, ‘the next cycle of stadiums should be gifts to a city’s residents, not to a city’s teams.’”

“In his new book, Jay Weiner tells how former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson and his staff created the false threat of Twins owner Carl Pohlad selling the team to North Carolina interests in order to gain legislative support for funding a new stadium in the Twin Cities.”

Washington Times

Stadium Games is about the history, particularly the history in Minneapolis, of municipalities funding sports stadiums. It has some enlightening lessons for people and government officials around here. I find it interesting for the links it has to Long Island, and to me.”

Long Island Business News

Stadium Games should be required reading in the front office of the St. Louis Cardinals, at St. Louis City Hall and the Missouri Capital.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Stadium Games chronicles the turbulent history of professional sports facilities in Minnesota. It gives us historical background from the past five decades. It also provides an insider’s look into the ongoing controversies surrounding the stadium situations of the Twins and Vikings. It’s a tale of politics and leverage, ambition and avarice, one that takes us from old Metropolitan Stadium to the Metrodome, from Met Center to Target Center, from a checkered past and a rocky present into an uncertain future. Stadium Games also outlines Weiner’s skepticism about the viability of the Twin Cities as a four-team major league market; and his proposals for future facilities arrangements that would benefit both the teams that inhabit those facilities as well as the communities and people who support them.”

St. Cloud Times

“Weiner’s book, Stadium Games, provides an unflinching account of how powerful interests in the Twin Cities employed deceit and thinly veiled threats to push through a publicly funded baseball stadium. There is room for many villains, witting and unwitting, in Weiner’s account. He is not stingy with blame, even sending a fair share towards his peers at the Star Tribune and, on many occasions, himself. But Weiner’s book does not merely document the spectacular failure of the stadium project, it also provides guideposts for rebuilding a populist faith in professional sports.”

SportsJones

“This is the kind of book that should be ‘must’ reading for state lawmakers and anybody else who wants advance preparation for the next round of the fight for state taxpayer funding of professional sports stadiums. Weiner who has done meticulous reporting on this thorny issue for most of the past ten years, will become a hot item on the local speaking circuit.”

Politics in Minnesota

Weiner writes not just about the sports industry in Minnesota. He contributes significantly to the literature on civics and civility. In writing about the corporatization of pro sports in a Midwest community, he presents a fascinating, human-interest story of politics, economics, and culture.

Public Administration Review