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February 5, 2007

A different site is a real possibility

If you read the comments of the post before this one, you would have read about an interview between Sid Hartman and Hennepin County Commissioner Randy Johnson on the February 4 edition of the Sports Huddle on WCCO Radio. According to reports concerning the interview, Randy Johnson expressed extreme frustration on the County's part concerning the purchase of the land for the new Twins ballpark. Of course, we all know this land as the Rapid Park site owned by Land Partners II. During the interview Randy pessimistically put the chances of successfully purchasing the land at "50/50."

parkquest.jpg

Some would consider this to be a "scary" statement or at the very least a statement that would give one's optimistic attitude a little pause.

However, Randy also mentioned that the county is looking at other sites within Hennepin County where a ballpark could be built. My initial reaction to this news was that finding a new site would throw the timetable for a new ballpark completely out of whack and cause unacceptable cost increases. Or would it? Is a new site a viable possibility? Well, a very reliable source has confirmed with me that this is all a very, very real possibility.

According to my source, the problem with the schedule is not really the county's concern. The county is on the hook to purchase the land and infrastructure. Cost overruns on the ballpark itself are the Twins responsibility. The county (and Mike Opat especially) is taking a lot of heat over this project, so it is crucial that they do everything in their power to make sure the "public experience" at the ballpark is as top notch as possible. The county will not sacrifice the public experience (i.e. infrastructure) in order to satisfy the demands of a couple of land owners. For that they should be commended.

So, the county currently has two options: they can either wait until Land Partners II negotiates in good faith (Randy Johnson said yesterday that LPII has not even made a counter offer) or they can look for a new site. From what I understand, right now they are leaning towards a new site.

To reiterate the stance of Land Partners II, in 2004 the county and LPII agreed on a sale price of the land ($12.95 million) and a land swap. In other words, money and land was to change hands. Today, the county wants to purchase the land for $13.5 million with no land swap. LPII would rather go through a condemnation process than agree to what they feel is a "lowball" offer. Hennepin County does not want to go through the condemnation process because they are capped at $90 million for land purchase and infrastructure. If the condemnation process decides on a land value of more than $13.5 million then some infrastructure will suffer and the "public experience" along with it (and quite frankly the political careers of people close to the project may suffer too).

Some of you may be wondering, "What about the Twins? Why don't they step up and bridge the gap?" That is the genius of finding a new site. It takes the problem of money away from the county and puts it squarely on the back of the Twins. Hennepin is a big county and there are many different sites that will work within the $90 million limit. With a bigger footprint the county could build exactly what they want, with ample roads and parking, and still give the ballpark plenty of "character." Heck, they could probably even put a couple more thousand cheap seats back into the upper deck. Plus, by doing so cost increases caused by a site change are the responsibility of the Twins.

In other words, it works out great for the taxpayer. The taxpayer's contribution is still capped and defined and the taxpayer gets the best ballpark possible. (Of course, this assumes you think taxpayer money for a new ballpark is a good thing in general. If you don't ... well that is a conversation to have on a different blog.)

No new site possibilities have come forward yet, but my source says that at some of these alternative sites the county could "gold plate" the ballpark for $90 million. So, to answer your question, yes I am still optimistic. This will get done. Maybe not exactly how or where we envisioned, but it will get done.

Any thoughts?

Posted by snackeru at February 5, 2007 12:06 PM

Comments

Crazy stuff. I've assumed all along that this site was the only site the ballpark could be built according to the agreement. What are the chances of the Twins throwing a hissy fit if a new site is found and the stadium overrun costs go up? Can you see the Twins nixing the deal if this happens? I'm so sick of all the bs. Only in Minnesota.

Posted by: Bruce at February 5, 2007 1:24 PM

Better sources say this is all a negotiation tactic, because Land Partners II has a direct interest in the building of this ball park (they stand to profit even more from the surrounding land they own for development) that Hennepin county is trying to force their hand. No chance this ever gets built outside Minneapolis, the Twins have no interest in this and would probably kill the ballpark.

Posted by: Micheal at February 5, 2007 1:52 PM

Yep, it is a possibility that the County is just making idle threats. No doubt about it. However, nothing about building this ballpark surprises me anymore.

I'm not so sure the Twins care that much about the Rapid Park site. The Twins are getting about $400 million in "free money" for an initial investment of $120 million. I don't think they would so easily "kill the ballpark" just because the site is changing.

Posted by: Shane at February 5, 2007 1:59 PM

so, exactly, where? out in the burbs? that throws the whole urban ballpark thing out the window. the site is excellent because it meets at the epicenter of so many transporation alternatives. won't there have to be another environmental review? what about all the work of the design committees for this site. a design specifically for this site is supposed to be released to the public next week, so we just throw that in the dumpster? too many questions, too much uncertainty. i don't like to hear county officials essentially throwing in the towel on all this hard work. and i didn't appreciate hearing randy johnson talking down the site, not at such a late stage in the process. it's all very discouraging. with all due respect to you and your sources, i don't think just moving to another site is as easy and seamless as you are making it. this is turning very laughable and silly. i hope land partners II enjoys their leverage because they're coming off as very disingenuous. they can take down their "twinsville" website while they're at it.

Posted by: mullen at February 5, 2007 2:00 PM

I don't think any of us have a clue about how frustrating this is on the part of the county, or the enormous storm of criticism Mike Opat is receiving concerning this project. True, the Rapid Park site is a good site with loads of pluses, but it isn't working out and the County is ticked. Again, we really don't have a clue how angry they are.

What is Opat supposed to do? Just roll over and take whatever deal LPII wants? Obviously this can't happen. It won't happen. If a new site is needed then yes, the timeline is thrown off. But if a new site will work within the budget and is possible (and will build a better ballpark and surrounding area) then why not?

Nothing about this process is easy and the whole thing became laughable 5 years ago. My hope is the Rapid Park site works out. All we can do is sit back and watch.

Posted by: Shane at February 5, 2007 2:11 PM

Not having this site downtown would absolutely change the ballpark experience and atmosphere.

In the burbs? That would be horrible.

Only in Minnesota can they not work this out. It's unreal that even when a stadium passes there is this much doubt, debate, etc.

Posted by: mlb2131 at February 5, 2007 3:36 PM

I would be extremely dismayed to see the Rapid Park site fall through. Plainly said, it is an ideal location in terms of parking, entertainment, access, and scenery. That note, I am also extremely annoyed with Land Partners II. I'm sure that to them this is just "business," but they are seriously undermining a process that has been a decade in the making, and that has significant ramifications concerning the community at-large. I would say that it must be tough for them to look in the mirror in the morning, but given the extremely low character they have shown so far, I doubt it.

Posted by: The Tube at February 5, 2007 4:00 PM

Count me as a stadium proponent. But if they take the park out of downtown, then I'm immediately a stadium opponent. I won't drive to the suburbs to see a pro baseball game - what a waste! Baseball belongs in an urban setting, next to retail, restaurants, and the vibrant environment this stadium can anchor. We don't need another metrodome.

Posted by: Tom at February 5, 2007 4:16 PM

It's been stated before, but where is the other side? Unless it's out in Medina, I am not sure whre there is the vacant acreage with infrastructure. Not to mention LRT access, etc. Unless of course they're planning to raze the MOA and put it there :o) Sounds like a negotiating ploy to me. Shane, ask your source where this other site may be.

Posted by: freealonzo at February 5, 2007 4:42 PM

Another thought -- I jokingly aired this idea in another forum, but given that the back of the huge parking ramps will be visible over the left field bleachers, could the county/city raise additional money for acquisition by selling the advertising rights to that space?

Posted by: The Tube at February 5, 2007 4:42 PM

I don't care where they build the park. Outdoor baseball is outdoor baseball. It doesn't need to be in an urban setting for me to enjoy outdoor baseball. That said, I want it to work out at the Rapid Park site. If they build anywhere else, there will be more roadblocks and most likely a one year delay pushing it back to 2011.

Posted by: Bruce at February 5, 2007 4:44 PM

why is the county so tied to the rapidpark site anyway. outdoor baseball is outdoor baseball. my salestax dollars help pay for a big part of the ballpark and i don't live in minneapolis. build it out in the suburbs. the rapidpark site shows you don't need a lot of acreage. i can think of at least a half dozen good places in maple grove. eden prairie. you name it. if it HAS to be downtown, let's look at downtown. maybe the strib's new owners want to liquidate one of their surface lots?????

Posted by: vince at February 5, 2007 5:29 PM

ugh...land partners and henn. county need to just sit down and amicably agree to "play ball" hehe. seriously, even with all the rhetoric, i am hopeful and optimistic this will be resolved by the end of the month around the time the county and twins sign off on the ballpark lease, use agreement and other paperwork. in spite of its deficiences, the rapid park site will give baseball fans of the midwest a unique and intimate experience. it will one-of-a kind and not replicated in many other cities because of its transit tie-ins and proximity to the downtown core of the city. fingers crossed....

Posted by: mullen at February 5, 2007 6:25 PM

Does the current legislation allow this to be built at another site without needing an ammendment? If not, another site is out of the question. Even if it does, moving this stadium out of Minneapolis is a very bad idea for the Twins. But under no circumstances can they go back to the state legislature with this, that would have doomsday written all over it.

What this talk does illustrate once again, is that it is in the Twins best interest to get in a room with Land Partners and cut a deal for the land. As you point out, if it is moved elsewhere, the Twins are still in the hook for the over-runs.

The Twins contribution is fairly small compared to some other stadiums. One of the trade-offs is that they have to pay the over-runs. And there will be over-runs, there always are. This is is just the first one. Yes, Land Partners is being greedy, but if this is allowed to blow-up at this point, I will blame the Twins.

Posted by: David Howe at February 6, 2007 1:23 AM

Does the current legislation allow this to be built at another site without needing an ammendment? If not, another site is out of the question. Even if it does, moving this stadium out of Minneapolis is a very bad idea for the Twins. But under no circumstances can they go back to the state legislature with this, that would have doomsday written all over it.

What this talk does illustrate once again, is that it is in the Twins best interest to get in a room with Land Partners and cut a deal for the land. As you point out, if it is moved elsewhere, the Twins are still in the hook for the over-runs.

The Twins contribution is fairly small compared to some other stadiums. One of the trade-offs is that they have to pay the over-runs. And there will be over-runs, there always are. This is is just the first one. I don't know how big the 'gap' is in the land price, but it's hard imagine it's more then $10-20 million dollars. As stadium costs go, that is a minor amount. The increased cost of switching sites would be many times more. Yes, Land Partners is being greedy, but if this is allowed to blow-up at this point, I will blame the Twins.

Posted by: David Howe at February 6, 2007 1:26 AM

Enough with the chicken little B.S.

Posted by: Col. Sanders (Seeking to fry Chicken Little with original recipe) at February 6, 2007 5:52 PM

Don't like it? Don't read it. No skin off my nose. I'm not sure my site has the reach to produce a chicken little type scare anyway.

If the county does start looking at other sites (which no one is really sure that they will) please come back and let me know what you think. Until then, cheerio my good man!

Posted by: Shane at February 6, 2007 7:47 PM

Shane, don't go pissing off Col. Sanders. He may take away that tasty chicken of his in retribution. Hey, there's a stadium idea:

"Welcome back to Twins baseball here in The KFC Henhouse. It's 95 degrees and sunny and the fans are getting a bit extra crispy today. The Twins scratched and pecked their way for 2 runs in the bottom of the 6th to get a leg up on the Red Sox 2-1. Gardy seems to be winging it today in an effort to find his breast lineup.

Here's the pitch: thigh high strike by Santana..."

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at February 7, 2007 9:56 AM

Pretty Cheesey CC

Posted by: zooomx at February 8, 2007 8:26 AM

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