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Twins' landlord, MLB close to settlement

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins and their landlord are
close to a lawsuit settlement that would keep the team in place at least through next year.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which runs the Metrodome, postponed a decision Wednesday until its members see the deal in writing. It
wasn't clear when that will be.

Meanwhile, Twins executives and owners of other major league
teams, also defendants in the lawsuit, met in Chicago to discuss
the proposed settlement, among other matters. They didn't vote on
it, but commissioner Bud Selig said they're pushing to get it done.

''I think all parties have signed off except them,'' Selig said,
referring to the facilities commission, which initiated the suit.

Kathryn Roberts, chairwoman of the commission, said its members
agreed during a closed meeting that it was best to wait.

''There's been positive movement, but in order to be responsible
as a public body, we need a definitive written agreement,'' she
said.

The commission filed the lawsuit in November after baseball
owners said they were going to eliminate two teams before the 2002
season, and the Twins appeared to be one of them. Hennepin County
District Judge Harry Crump ordered the team to honor the lease,
derailing the owners' contraction plans.

But the commission pressed on and claimed that owners, by
threatening to disband the Twins, illegally interfered with its
ability to forge a long-term lease with the team.

Andy Shea, one of the commission's lawyers, said Crump initiated
settlement discussions on Tuesday at the request of the major
league baseball.

Neither side would discuss the proposed settlement Wednesday.
But the commission's executive director, Bill Lester, said the
details were ''very, very close'' to a report in the Star Tribune
of Minneapolis.

The newspaper said the proposed settlement stipulates the Twins
won't be on baseball's list of teams to be contracted in 2003. And
the commission won't be able to sue baseball during the 2002 and
2003 seasons other than to enforce the Twins' obligation to play in
those two years.

The commission's demands for documents from the team and from
major league baseball also would be dropped. It wanted papers on
the internal plans for baseball to eliminate teams.

Commission officials said they don't see Wednesday's delay as
missing an opportunity. ''There'll be other owners' meetings,''
Lester said.

Tom Ostertag, baseball's general counsel, said there was no firm
timetable to resolve the matter.

Selig said contraction remains a viable option for baseball, but
he was upbeat about the Twins chances for survival, in part because
Minnesota lawmakers earlier this month decided to help finance a
new stadium for the team.

''We have a proposed stadium deal that has a lot of hoops to
walk through yet and we have a deal to settle the litigation, which
I think is critical if we are going to move forward,'' Selig said.
''And the objective is to move forward and get something done on a
permanent basis.''

Gov. Jesse Ventura signed a bill last week that arranges
financing for a $330 million stadium for the Twins. But a host
community still must be found.

St. Paul plans a vote to try to be the host. But if its
residents don't approve a referendum, the assurance provided by the
settlement that the Twins will play through 2003 gives the
Legislature time to take another crack at it.

''I'm not totally convinced that the bill that we passed ...
will be the final product,'' said Sen. Dean Johnson, who sponsored
this spring's stadium legislation.