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Debt paid down early on Target Field — saving $53.7M

Minnesota TwinsHere’s why you build ballparks when construction and interest costs are low: the debt on Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, has been reduced by $53.7 million after the Minnesota Ballpark Authority took advantage of favorable market conditions.

The savings were mostly realized by prepaying variable-rate debt on the ballpark, but having a steady revenue stream from a countywide sales tax has helped things out immensely. In fact, the finances are so favorable the Twins’ million-dollar rent has been shuttled to a capital-improvement fund and left untouched. From the Star Tribune:

For Target Field, Hennepin County’s initial plan was to make the final debt payment in 2037, but the payoff now could come five or 10 years sooner, according to county Budget and Finance Director Dave Lawless. The county issued bonds to cover the $350 million public share of the $555 million ballpark, which opened in 2010, and levied a 0.15 percent sales tax to cover its payments.

For taxpayers, an early payoff would mean an early end to the sales tax.

“We’re not in love with having a tax on for as long as we can have it,” said Hennepin County Board Chairman Mike Opat. “When there’s the money, we pay down the debt.”

With the finances for the ballpark on the rosy side, the Twins are already talking improvements for 2014, when the team hosts the All-Star Game. Under consideration: an upgraded plaza area leading to Target Center and First Avenue, upgraded videoboard and upgraded concessions.

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