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Thursday, May 30
Both sides putting details down on paper

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A Metrodome official said Thursday a proposed settlement guaranteeing a 2003 season for the Minnesota Twins probably wouldn't be finalized and voted on until next week at the earliest.

Attorneys for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the Twins and Major League Baseball are close to a deal that would resolve a lawsuit and preserve baseball in Minnesota for another year.

Bill Lester, the commission's executive director, didn't expect the agreement to be ready for consideration by the public board before the week ended. On Wednesday, the commission delayed action on a verbal deal struck a day earlier until it was put in writing.

Baseball attorneys presented a draft to commission lawyers, who spent Thursday reviewing and revising it. Commission officials want more specific language in some areas, Lester said.

Joe Anthony, a Minneapolis-based attorney for the league, said the deal is the only sure bet for saving baseball in Minnesota.

``The commission isn't giving up anything. They're getting a gift,'' Anthony said. ``We're giving up a lot.''

A stadium bill signed by Gov. Jesse Ventura last week requires the lawsuit to be resolved before any bonds for the $330 million ballpark are sold. Anthony said the case also is an impediment in the search for a new Twins owner.

Under the settlement, the commission would drop a lawsuit against the Twins and Major League Baseball in return for a guarantee that the Twins would play in the Metrodome at least through 2003.

The commission won an injunction that forced the Twins to honor the final year of their lease and play this season, derailing baseball's contraction plan.

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. The case is scheduled for trial in August before Hennepin County District Judge Harry Crump, who made the earlier ruling against baseball.

As part of the case, the commission demanded that the Twins and baseball turn over financial documents and internal papers related to contraction. The demand would be dropped under the settlement.

The Associated Press, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and KARE-TV have sought access to 9,000 documents the Twins already turned over, most of which have been marked confidential.

In a letter to commission attorneys Thursday, attorney John Borger said the media organizations he represents won't abandon their pursuit of the documents if a settlement is reached.

``Those matters are now aspects of this case that cannot and should not be mooted by whatever agreements the commission may make with the Twins and major league baseball,'' Borger wrote.

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