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January 28, 2007

Real men Wii standing up

Last Sunday my older son and I camped out in front of Target in order to get the Nintendo Wii. We got out there at about 5:40 in the morning and we were 11th in line. All together waited 2 1/2 hours in 10 degree weather (and it snowed) in order to buy a video game system. Was it worth it? Every penny. The Wii is a blast.

I whipped up the following video this afternoon and while it isn't my best work it does illustrate the fun we are having playing the two games we have: Wii Sports and the Legend of Zelda. I think what you'll notice is how our movements using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck usually mimic real life, whether it is throwing a bowling ball, throwing a punch, swinging a baseball bat, or using a sling shot. That is half the fun of playing, truth be told.

Anyway, enjoy the video. Of course, it uses the obligatory "Eye of the Tiger" as its soundtrack, and my wife says the ending is the best (if you can make it that far). On with the show!

Posted by snackeru at 7:47 PM | Comments (12)

January 27, 2007

Victory at the Pinewood Derby!

The car I built ... er ... I mean my son built won first place at the Pinewood Derby today! Woo hoo!


Posted by snackeru at 9:12 PM | Comments (5)

January 24, 2007

The Taxes Committee is to blame

Although I haven't been able to figure out the exact legislator who put in the $90 million limit for the Twins ballpark land and infrastructure, I have been able to locate its source: Krinke's Taxes Committee. In fact, I actually documented it when it happened (Friday April 21, 2006):

One of the amendments on the bill does appear to be somewhat problematic. According to the Pioneer Press:

"The Taxes Committee considered several amendments Friday in a hearing that was far more sedate than a boisterous Thursday meeting in Bloomington, where stadium proponents and opponents made their voices heard.

The committee passed one amendment capping Hennepin County's infrastructure spending to $90 million."

My opinion is that this is bad. But I'm going to ask around to get the straight skinny. From what I've read, though, the infrastructure costs are probably higher than $90 million. We'll see.

Well, I was half way right. It is definitely a problem, and the problem seems to be focusing on the purchase of the land, not the infrastructure (at least today). Putting more money aside for the land, though, will definitely impact the infrastructure around the park. It is my hope, however, that they just bit the bullet and get the ballpark built. Maybe some of the infrastructure needs that are pushed to the curb now can be taken care of after the park is built. The bill does require the County and the Twins to set aside money yearly for improvements. Maybe this money can be used for purposes of infrastructure.

Back to the Taxes Committee. Even though it won't matter much, I want to know what anti-stadium legislator put this crappy amendment into the bill. Was it Krinke? Was it Erhardt? Was it Lenczewski? The meeting minutes do not say. But I can imagine they are pretty happy with themselves right now.

I am optimistic at this point though. A Hennepin County judge has determined the ballpark is for "public purpose" which allows for a "quick take" of the land. Barring some unforseen problems, the County could have the title to the land by the end of the month. Again, the only difficulty with this arrangement is the continuing negotiations between the land owners and the County for the extra compensation. It sounds like the land will initially be purchased for $13.35 million (or $13.5?) and that Land Partners II is definitely expecting something more to come from the condemnation process. At this point, I think it will be interesting to find out what infrastructure need will be pushed aside to make sure the County has the extra funds/land necessary to finish the purchase.

Posted by snackeru at 7:45 AM | Comments (17)

January 21, 2007

Errors of omission

I received a letter from Rich Pogin of Land Partners II fame yesterday that began:

"Shane you and BP are incorrect in your posts on what the Option says."

This was more of an error of omission than an error of malice so I think it is important to rectify the situation. If you'll recall, BP Twin sent me a document on the Twinsville web site that lists the 2004 value of the ballpark land at $12.95 million. Apparently, this is not the end of the story and demonstrates that I did not read the document close enough. Upon closer reading, there was also supposed to be a land swap to go along with the sale.

According to this City of Minneapolis website (agenda item 7), provided by Rich, in 2004 the County agreed to purchase the 8 acres of Land Partners II land for $12.95 million and give Land Partners II 4.97 acres of land located "southwesterly" and adjacent to the ballpark site. This land is referred to as the "Offset Land." The website also has a copy of the entire agreement, and a nifty PDF map of the ballpark land and all the entities that own a part of it. If you are interested you should definitely check it out.

Anyway, I think Land Partners II have taken somewhat of a beating on this site in recent weeks so I wanted to set this record straight. While $12.95 million was certainly part of the price of the ballpark land in 2004, the Offset Land promised to Land Partners II as part of the price does suggest that the $13 million left in the County budget today to purchase the land may not be enough after all. I am sorry for my shoddy reading of the original Offset Option documents. Hopefully this will clarify things and shed some more light on the subject.

The question today, however, should be is all this moot now that the County and Land Partners II may be coming to an agreement on the condemnation hearings? I asked Rich about this and he replied:

The technical way to state this is that the land owner will raise no objections to the County taking fee title to the land for the value the County assigns to it. The ultimate determination of the value of the land will then be subject to the condemnation process. Each side will be able to make its case the court. the court would then determine the “fair market value.? Thus the County can take the property as early as Jan 31 (or any time there after) and commence construction of a ballpark. In the mean time both side can continue to negotiate.

I can't say for sure that this is a done deal, but essentially Land Partners II will sell the land now with the agreement that more compensation may be appropriate as decided by the condemnation process. I wonder how this is possible given that the County is limited to $90 million overall for the land acquisition and the infrastructure. If a condemnation process decides that more compensation is necessary, where will that extra compensation come from? Once again, my ignorance knows no bounds.

All I care about is the process going forward. And it sounds like it is. Hopefully we'll get some more official reports of this new agreement soon. It sounds good but the proof is in the pudding: I want to see that first shovel full of dirt.

The real culprit in all of this is the $90 million limitation that was put into the bill in the first place. I may have to research how this clause got in there because I can't believe either the Twins or the County ever wanted it there. I seem to recall an anti-stadium legislator putting this moronic requirement in, but I can't say for sure. If anyone can recall, please let me know.

Anyway, I hope this clarifies things a bit. Sorry for the errors, and thanks to Rich for setting me straight!

Posted by snackeru at 8:42 PM | Comments (3)

January 20, 2007

What? Me? Worry?

Well, it looks like all our worrying was for naught. It appears that a deal is in the works to put all this land acquisition mess behind us. I just received an email from Jeff T. in St. Paul (thanks a million Jeff!) who says:

I was just on KSTP 1500 Saturday Sports Talk with Joe Soucheray and Patrick Ruesse (I try and call in about once a month). According to Ruesse, he thought it will be announced on Monday that Hennepin County will pay the Rapid Park land owners 13.5 million to take over the land for the Twins stadium. They will proceed with condemnation hearings, however, so Hennepin County may actually end up owing the land owners a little more $$$ in the long run. The good news, however, is that the land would be owned by Hennepin County so the stadium plans could forge ahead. He thought this was already announced in the media, which I have not been able to find at all. So nothing is confirmed, but that sounds like good news.

This also corresponds with what Sid wrote a couple of days ago (thanks for the reminder Derek!):

A lot more will be known about the condemnation of the land for the new Twins stadium when a crucial meeting is held Jan. 22, according to Dan Rosen, lawyer for the land owners' group. Rosen claims the Twins could be building the stadium while condemnation hearings are being held to determine the price.

So, there you have it. Nothing to worry about. The landowners (hey Bruce!) and the County will all get what they want and we'll get our ballpark. I shouldn't have even wasted a keystroke on any of this. But I do what I have to do, and that usually means freaking out over every little detail.

By the way did you see an anonymous Twins fan gave the Ballpark Authority $3,000 as a "thank-you"? No, it wasn't me. Quite frankly, that is just plain strange. Cool to read about, but strange.

• Finally, and off topic, I plan on getting up early tomorrow morning and purchasing a Nintendo Wii at Target! I'll probably get in line around 6:30 AM. If anyone knows of a better way to get a Wii please let me know, otherwise I plan on freezing my tail off for a little bit. Wish me luck!

Posted by snackeru at 1:05 PM | Comments (7)

January 19, 2007

In case you didn't see these comments

Some pretty smart people read the Greet Machine, and in case you missed these comments I think they are important enough to put on the front page. Check out this comment from BP Twin:

Land Partners II in their 2005 purchase agreement with the City of Minneapolis asked for $12.95 million for their property. http://www.mntwinsville.com/topics/plan/documents/LandOption_000.pdf

That is why the state only budgeted aprox. $13m for the land. It was the Fair Market Value set by Land Partner II in 2004. Given the downturn in the real estate market-especially the condo market- the value of the land, if anything, has decreased since then.

Aha! Finally we have a real number to refer to concerning the value of the ballpark land: $12.95 million. That is some fine detective work BP Twin! So, in January of 2004, the County and Land Partners II agreed to sell and purchase the land for $12.95 million. According to the document above, and if I am reading it correctly, that agreement expired in December 2005, so the agreement is no longer legally binding in any way. But as BP Twin says, if anything the market has turned south since then and the land should actually be valued less. So, what is Land Partners II asking for it today? What should they be asking for?

Let's assume that Land Partners II isn't going to settle for anything less than $12.95 million. In fact, let's assume that they want much more (I know, tough assumption). Let's also assume that the land has not actually decreased in value. Given that this agreement was forged in 2004, and given that the typical rate of inflation is 3%, could we assume that the land today is worth approx. $13.73 million? I think that is a very fair assumption and would be a very fair dollar figure for the land.

I guess what I'm saying is given the land was valued at $12.95 million in 2004, if Land Partners II is asking anything over $14 million for the land they are way out of line.

As I've said in previous posts, Land Partners II could be asking for a price for the land that takes into account it is the future home of the Twins new ballpark. It has been my contention that the County does not want to go through a condemnation process because they know the land will be valued much higher than they have budgeted for.

Enter comment number two by Expatriate Minnesotan:

Minnesota state law says: "Any increase or decrease in the fair market value of the property from the project to be constructed may not be considered." Mpls-St. Paul Sanitary District v. Fitzpatrick, 277 N.W. 394 (Minn. 1938).

Cribbed from Mark D. Savin, An Introduction to Eminent Domain Law and Practics: A Primer After the Grand Forks Flood (MSBA CLE June 5, 1997), at http://www.abanet.org/rppt/katrina/MarkSavin-INTRODUCTIONTOEMINENTDOMAIN.pdf.

The case cited above may not be good law anymore, I suppose, but it's not often that a precedent as well-settled as that gets overturned.

So, there you have it. Another fine piece of detective work! Thank you Expatriate Minnesotan! A condemnation judge would probably not take into account the fact that a new Twins ballpark would be built on the land. This is a "well-settled" precedent from the days of the Grand Forks flood.

So, the question then is: what is the hold up? Why won't the county just go through with the condemnation process and be done with it? A judge would probably decide in their favor and find that the land should be valued at a pre-ballpark legislation price.

The answer is time. A condemnation process truly jeopardizes the project because of the time it would take to finish the hearings. The project is on a tight deadline and any delays literally cost millions in increased construction costs. The county would much rather negotiate a price for the land outside of condemnation proceedings just to keep the project on track.

So, I can imagine that Hennepin County started negotiations for the land within the framework of the January 2004 agreement. Land Partners II predictably said the land is worth much more now, and is demanding a higher price. Land Partners II has also said they would be willing to go through a condemnation process knowing that the County does not want to go down this path. It would just take too long. This obviously forces the County to settle on a price now, and Land Partners II is hoping that the price is higher than what they would get in a condemnation process.

What do you think? Is my logic flawed in any way? It probably isn't as cut and dry as I am making it out to be, but I think, thanks to the comments from BP Twin and Expatriate Minnesotan, that this is what we are dealing with.

The heart of the matter, thoug is this: if Land Partners II is asking for more than $14 million I can see why the County is balking. The land isn't worth that much. Let me know what you think.

Posted by snackeru at 9:48 AM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2007

Sorry for the silence

Sorry for the lack of entries everyone. Life happens and life is happening for me in a very busy way. I'll get some new stadium related content up soon. Until then:

• Yesterday was my birthday (along with SBG). I got a circular saw from my parents, the video for Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" for my iPod from my two sons, a tool organizer (and new fancy screwdriver) from my wife, and my daughter made me a spice cake in her EasyBake oven. Cheesehead Craig called and left a message with him singing "Happy Birthday" to me Marilyn Monroe style (that was disturbing). And to top it all off, I had a delicious milkshake at Sunffy's last night. Overall it was a great day!

• I like Tim Brewster as the new Gopher's head coach. I like what I am reading, and I like what he is saying. However, this was a hire on the cheap. With Monson's and Mason's buyouts, Maturi gave Brewster's application a couple of extra gold stars because he wouldn't command Patterson or Coker type money. That is my opinion and if you disagree ... well you are just plain wrong. I wish Brewster all the luck in the world, though, and I look forward to a Gopher victory in the Rose Bowl. More than anything, though, I look forward to seeing Minnesotans in Gopher uniforms. The next 5 years should be interesting (and fun!).

• Regardless of what happened last night, I like what Dwayne Casey is doing with the T-Wolves right now. I like the Thud is sitting, and I like that Foye is playing during crunch time. I might actually have to attend a T-Wolves game this year. Anyway, Dwayne Casey deserves some props.

That's it for now. See you all later! (I'll look into the comment preview problem. Seems to work in Firefox. Might just be an IE problem.)

Posted by snackeru at 8:51 AM | Comments (7)

January 15, 2007

Parents today ... sheesh!

So, I took my two boys to opening night of the Minnesota Swarm last Friday. I wouldn't usually go out of my way to go to a lacrosse game, but someone gave me the tickets for free and I love visiting the X. The game was pretty good even though the Swarm lost, but that isn't what I wanted to talk about.

Today I want to talk about negligent parents, or more specifically child etiquette at a sporting event. Right before the game started a family of 4 came and sat down behind my family. This family had two boys, one of which was probably 4 whom they positioned right behind me. The kicking started immediately.

This kid kicked my chair like a jackhammer non-stop for about two hours straight. I am not exaggerating when I say these were not just simple taps either. These were ground shaking kicks that can only be produced by putting one's full force into the upward swing of one's leg. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom Boom!!! All night long. Oh it was painful.

What do you do in this situation? Do you act like you don't notice? I tried for that for a while. I got all zen and said, "There is no kick, only calm," and "Serenity now," but it was no use. The kicking was tunneling into my brain and slowly making me into a raging volcano ready to burst.

After about an hour of this, the miraculous happened. The family all got up for some popcorn! Unfortunately the popcorn vendor was only about 20 feet away from our seats, but this would at least give me 5 minutes of peace. And I relished those 5 minutes! No kicking, no teeth chattering, it was wonderful!

The family came back and started to eat the popcorn. After about a minute of this the young lad behind me took a bite of popcorn, started chewing, and then sneezed it all over the back of my head. As I wiped the half-eaten popcorn out of my hair I glanced back at the oblivious parents with a look of desperation. Still nothing. Would I have to be "that guy?" Would I have to actually scold the child and ask him not to kick my chair or sneeze in my hair anymore?

At this point the boy dropped something and bent over to retrieve it. While doing this he rammed his butt into the back of my neck which caused me to reflexively stand up and see what was going on. His parents said:

"Damien! Watch what you are doing! You are bothering that man in front of you!"

I kid you not, his name was Damien. Never has a child been more appropriately named. I sat down and started thinking how I have so angered God to have been given this punishment.

As I was thinking about this I chanced a glance over at my own 8 year old son two seats down. At this particular moment my son was absolutely savaging the chair in front of him with his own two feet. Boom! Boom! Boom! He was kicking it so hard I thought the young gentleman in front of him was going to fly out of his seat at any moment. I think I also noticed a small tear trickling down his cheek. Who knows how long my son had been doing this. Unfortunately, I was too busy worrying about myself to notice. Of course, I quickly told my son to stop kicking, sit up straight, and pay attention to the game.

From then on I didn't mind Damien too much. Parents today, huh? We've all got a little to learn I guess.

Posted by snackeru at 10:56 AM | Comments (4)

January 12, 2007

Letter to the editor

I was recently sent a letter to the editor of the Star Tribune that 1) I don't think the Strib will print in its entirety (if at all) and 2) that I think is worth reading. Check it out:

The letter written by Bruce Lambrecht and Richard Pogin, President and CFO of Investment Management, in these pages on January 6th was a valiant attempt to dodge the real issue, but they came up short. This company, for years, has been holding meetings, sending out promotional material called "Pitch Packets", and encouraging people like me to send letters to legislators, all to achieve their stated Mission of building a Twins ballpark. According to their website, www.MNTwinsville.com, and the various materials they mailed to me and encouraged me to help distribute, their Mission is "To build a world class, major league outdoor ballpark in Minneapolis." They make it clear that they have a "willing seller", that their land is available for this purpose, and even go so far as to mention that the “seller? will finance the sale of the land in such a way as to assist in financing the overall project. In recent weeks, they have obviously forgotten their Mission, or are no longer holding to it, as they now haggle over a few million dollars in land price, which threatens to scuttle their Mission. I feel stupid, because I was duped into thinking they cared more about their Mission than about a relatively small amount of money. But, they appear ready to allow this to stand in the way of their Mission. I am certain these are reasonable and honorable men. If they truly care about building a Twins stadium and completing their stated Mission, they will discontinue this ridiculous wrangling and do what people like me have done: make a sacrifice to do something for the greater good of Minnesota.

This is written by your average Twins fan. What I think it demonstrates is what I wrote about last weekend, that if this deal falls through the land owners will take the brunt of the blame. I have no doubt of this, whether it is justified or not. Thanks for sending Derek!

Posted by snackeru at 2:30 PM | Comments (10)

January 10, 2007

The other side of the story?

I think it is important to point out a piece of information that some people seem to be misunderstanding concerning the continuing efforts of Hennepin County to purchase the ballpark land. Hennepin County actually started eminent domain proceedings in November of last year but they seem to have backed off now. In fact, according to the Strib letter from Lambrecht and Pogin:

While we did not choose to be in eminent domain litigation, we accept the county's choice. In such litigation, a court of law will determine what the fair market value of the property is, and we are willing to accept the court's determination.

Is that "greedy" or "stubborn"? This raises a critical question. Are those who smeared us unwilling to pay fair market value for our property?

So, it is obvious that the land owners would welcome an eminent domain proceeding. My question, though, is would an eminent domain proceeding value the land based on the fact that a stadium will be built there, or would the land be valued as if the stadium bill had never been passed?

I think it is an important distinction and may be one reason why the county no longer wants to continue with an eminent domain or condemnation process. The court probably would take into account the fact that a stadium will be built on the land and will adjust the price accordingly. The county may want to negotiate for the land at a pre-stadium legislation price.

Having said all of this, I received a letter today from Mike Opat, HC Commissioner and leader of the county's stadium effort. Although he doesn't answer my question above, he does shed some light on what the county is thinking concerning this increasingly troubling process. Mike writes that he is hopeful they can work out the remaining issues, but that there is a real chance that the negotiations will break down if the two sides can't come together. Mike mentions that the county may need to walk away if Lambrecht and Pogin remain uncooperative.

It is a shame that the Rapid Park site is the only site in play, truth be told. As far as I can tell, the enabling legislation does not specify a location besides Hennepin County. Could another site be put in the mix? Another environmental impact study would have to be done which would delay construction, but if the county walks away from this process they are still collecting those pennies. Why couldn't Hennepin County pick a different site? Unfortunately they might have to. Truthfully I would prefer a site along the river anyway.

Now, I know that the chances of this happening are very remote considering that delays cost millions extra in stadium costs, but stranger things have happened. I would definitely prefer that this deal is worked out. However, Mike Opat wrote further that Lambrecht and Pogin are not being "reasonable" with their demands. He ended his letter with the statement:

We will stay the course for a little while. But you may be chronicling the demise of the effort ... On the upside, all other parties are reasonable and we continue to resolve issues and make progress.

Opat also described that at a recent meeting Land Partners II announced that Bruce Lambrecht and their lawyer Dan Rosen would handle negotiations for them. This is very odd for me to read given that this contradicts the letter Rich Pogin recently sent me which stated, "For the record I [Rich Pogin] am the person in charge of negotiations and legal matters for the partnerships that own the land. The County knows this because I negotiated the option with the city and county in 2004." This does indeed seem a little inconsistent and unorganized.

And again, what does Opat mean by "reasonable?" Is being reasonable accepting a price for the land that the county can afford? A price that would have been reasonable if the site wasn't the future location of a new Twins ballpark? I can't say for sure, but I definitely know one thing. I DO NOT want to "chronicle the demise of the effort."

I remain hopeful that this will all be worked out, but the county does seem to be reaching the end of their rope. If anyone has any other insight to all of this, please enlighten me. I'm not in panic mode yet, but I am getting there.

Posted by snackeru at 8:33 PM | Comments (13)

January 8, 2007

Another bet lost, another bet made

Hey everyone. No stadium news today. I did get a call from a big-wig at Land Partners II, probably to chew me out, but I was unable to talk with him. Maybe tomorrow.

What I did want to mention to you today is my neighbor and good friend Cheesehead Craig has written a post that documents my humiliation after losing yet another bet concerning the Vikings and the Packers. As Cheesehead mentions this brings my betting record with him to 0-5. That's right. I have yet to beat him in any kind of wager.

First we had the horror of the Brew-Ha-Ha in the Backyard where the Brewers beat the Twins 2 games to 1. Mowing Craig's lawn was not my idea of fun.

Based on that humiliation I bet Craig the Vikings would win the NFC North in 2004. Well, shock of all shocks, that didn't work. To make things even worse, the Packers won the division. I ended up treating Criag to a delicious cheeseburger at Fuddruckers. Moss did moon the Pack at Lambeau that year though so I think I got the better deal.

The next summer, Craig and I embarked on our own version of the Wisconsin-Minnesota Border Battle which we dubbed the Backyard Border Battle. We had a number of events, but again Craig came out on top in the overall standings. Craig beat me in the backyard home run derby, croquet, Stratego (man was that ever painful), and mini-golf. I won at Horse, Trivial Pursuit, and bowling, but it wasn't enough. I treated Craig to a chocolate malt at Snuffy's.

It was a while before I ever bet Craig again, but Tarvaris Jackson's first start and first game at Lambeau got my competitive juices flowing. So, of course I made the ill-conceived bet that Tarvaris would win his first start at Lambeau, in December, in what might be Favre's last game at home. What the heck was I thinking? Needless to say I lost and was forced to buy Craig a cheeseburger at Fuddruckers and shovel his driveway after the first snow! I must ask the question, why do the Fates hate me so? The gods have made me their plaything and Cheesehead Craig the instrument of their amusement.

Quite honestly I don't even remember the 5th bet I lost to CC but it must have been so horrible that I've blocked it from my memory. Not to mention this is the same guy that put a "No Stadium Funding" sign in my front window while I was on vacation in South Dakota one year! Seriously I would be crying if this wasn't so comical at this point.

So, where does that leave us? Well, I have one more chance at retribution. CC and I have decided to once again travel to Miller Park in Milwaukee for the annual Twins-Brewers series. This is my chance. The Twins are the superior team, right? Mauer and Morneau and Santana, right? Heck, Boof even beat them last year. This is a bet that I can't lose ... right (please)? Therefore, I challenge Cheesehead Craig to another bet, that is if he is man enough to take it. The Twins will win the series.

What say you, Cheesehead Craig? Name your terms!

Posted by snackeru at 9:21 PM | Comments (19)

January 7, 2007

OK. I feel better now.

Phew. I'm sorry you had to see that. Sometimes you just have to let it all out though. I think the biggest frustration I have is that unlike the legislative battle where I had some way of feeling like I could do something about the problem, this time all I can do is sit back and watch. Unlike before where I could write or call my legislator, now all I can do is hope and pray something gets worked out. And as I've already been told, there really is too much at stake for this not to get worked out somehow.

So, I'm just going to wait for the inevitable: a new ballpark in 2010. I just can't fathom that this all won't get worked out.

And if something doesn't get worked out, at least I'll always have the Vikings. Oh, wait a minute ...

Posted by snackeru at 4:11 PM

January 6, 2007

Give me a break

Before I get into the main focus of this post I have been trying to figure out just how much Land Partners II actually want for the land. If the county is limited to $90 million, and the infrastructure costs $72 million, that leaves $18 million for all the land that must be purchased. Pogin has already said that $4 million goes to Burlington Northern, and $500,000 to the city. Plus, there are a bunch of other smaller parcels that must be purchased. However, according to the Strib story we've all already read, the County has budgeted a maximum of of $13.5 million for the land and Land Partners II are saying that is way too low. How much do they want? My guess is at least $20 million (give or take $3 million). This is just a hunch, but I think that is the difference we are talking about.

But ... the more I thought about this the more I got ticked off. And I'm still ticked off. I don't want to have to think about this anymore. I can't believe with all the money already being collected by Hennepin County this is all being screwed up at such an embarrassing level. Negotiations in the paper? Rich people complaining about not getting enough money? A major league baseball team that is being given millions in public money calling other people "greedy?" Give me a fricken' break. This is sad, comical, and sickening all at the same time.

I got so ticked off that I wrote my good buddy Freealonzo and voiced my frustrations. Freealonzo gave me a pretty good reply that I think warrants reprinting:

The stakes are way too high for a deal not to happen. To quote an overused cliche: "failure is not an option." No way the Twins let this deal crumble -- they aren't getting another chance for a new ballpark. No way the County lets this deal fall apart, they are already collecting sales tax pennies. No way Lambrecht let's this deal fall apart, there's too much money on the table, he has investors to make happy, and the condo market is overbuilt so it will be years until he could fully develop his parcels without a project. Finally, no way the legislature and the Governor let this deal fall apart. They took a lot of flack for passing this bill, they don't want to look like fools and they aren't going to revisit the deal.

Amen brother. I guess I've got something more blunt and direct to follow up Freealonzo's statement: everyone involved with this deal needs to pull their heads out of their asses and figure this out. You've all had your fun pouting to the local newspaper, now figure something out.

To the County: start negotiating! If reports are accurate, you haven't even tried to talk with Pogin and Lambrecht yet to try to figure out a deal. You are already collecting the pennies that will account for approx. $28 million a year in taxpayer money and you let things get this out of control? Get your head out of the sand and figure something out!

To Land Partners II: if you aren't reasonable with your demands, if you ask for too much, if this deal falls through, you will be blamed. You will be a pariah in this community and from what I understand people are already snubbing you. If this deal falls apart, you will be the reason people come up with first for why there isn't a new Twins stadium. You may not think it is fair, but that is the way it will be.

And to the Twins: The people of Hennepin County are taking on debt of $392 million for your new stadium. If you can't find $10 million extra in your budget to make sure this deal happens you don't deserve a new stadium. If you squander almost $400 million in "free money" just because you don't think you should have to pay any more ... well, you're a bunch of idiots. I won't have a drop of sympathy for you.

And with that I will leave you. Shut up and figure something out. I don't want to hear about the stadium again until the first shovel full of dirt is dug.

Posted by snackeru at 3:40 PM | Comments (3)

January 4, 2007

The Landowners' response to Sid's column

UPDATE: This is the letter Rich sent to the Star Tribune. A little different, but the main theme is still there: the County doesn't have enough money for the land whether through negotiations or condemnation.

I just received this from Rich Pogin, spokesperson and main negotiator for the land the Twins ballpark will sit on. Strong words:

We (the land owners and Hines) have told the county that we will not object to a quick take of the land to be for used as a ballpark.

The problem is the county submitted a fixed budget to the legislature for infrastructure and land. Of the $90M, the land piece was $18M. Of this $4m is budgeted to the BN rail, $500,000 has gone to the city. There are several remnant parcels to acquire from MN dot and or the city. The balance is for the main parcel. The dollars available for land left could go up or down based on what the infrastructure costs. The bottom line is the legislation did not provide for paying market value for the land. Their number for land were probably guesses. When these guesses were made and by whom is a mystery.

If the legislation had said the infrastructure is $72M, and the land at fair market value, the county would take the project in a quick take and the value would have been determined though eminent domain proceedings (assuming a negotiated deal could not be reached).

Despite the fact the county has filed condemnation orders against the property I do not see the County proceeding due to the defects of the legislation they requested. They have more or less said they will not pay fair market value as defined by the eminent domain statutes. I'm not sure that this will be the final chapter in the book but it might be.

For the record I am the person in charge of negotiations and legal matters for the partnerships that own the land. The County knows this because I negotiated the option with the city and county in 2004. I have never been asked to meet with the Twins regarding the land at any time. I have also never been asked by the county to meet with the county to discuss land values in 2006 (I did sit in on a couple of meetings unrelated to land value).

Rich Pogin

Yikes, yikes, yikes. The phrase "I'm not sure that this will be the final chapter in the book but it might be" sends chills down my spine. I don't know what to think. I'll see if I can't gather some more information. Until then, start praying.

Again, though, I can't see getting this far only to see everything blow up. I just can't see it. Only time will tell.

Posted by snackeru at 6:34 PM | Comments (6)

January 3, 2007

Land acquisition blues

OK everyone. Let's explain the entities that we are dealing with. First there is the Minnesota Ballpark Authority (MBA), the future owners of the ballpark. The MBA will oversee the construction and maintenance of the ballpark. Then there are the owners of the land. Obviously, they expect to get a fair price for their land and quite frankly they are probably hoping for more than a fair price. I think anyone would be. Next we have New Ballpark, Inc. New Ballpark is managing the advisory and feedback process to make sure that the ballpark meets the needs of the surrounding community. Then we, of course, have the Twins. The Twins have some very specific needs for the ballpark and the surrounding infrastructure. Finally, we have Hennepin County. Right now, Hennepin County is involved in the actual land acquisition and obviously from the tone of Sid's column, they are growing very frustrated. In Sid's column, Mike Opat said:

"The biggest thing that I worry about right now is, are we going to be able to buy this land and afford the project? If they want to hold us hostage, then we probably don't have a project. If they think that we're going to pay any price, they're wrong, and we'll face a decision whether or not to even do the project."

There is $90 million set aside for the stadium site land acquisition, pollution cleanup and other infrastructure.

And that, my friends, is the crux of the problem. $90 million. The Twins stadium bill only set aside $90 million dollars for Hennepin County to pay for all the infrastructure around the stadium. That $90 million must also pay for the land acquisition, and when you combine land acquisition costs with infrastructure costs it seems $90 million may not go as far as we need it to. The limitation of $90 million looks to be, in hindsight, the biggest misstep of the Twins stadium bill.

So, enter in the owners of the land. According to feedback I've received from New Ballpark Inc., and the feeling I get from the land owners themselves, they feel they are not being treated fairly. I may have to agree. According to New Ballpark Inc, when all of this was being worked out back in 2004, the County and the land ownership group submitted a joint proposal to the governor's stadium committee that suggested the Rapid Park site as the best site for a new stadium. As part of that proposal there was an agreement between the county and the ownership group that said the group would get somewhere in the neighborhood of $120/sq foot for the land (further note: the value of $120/s.f. was computed based on the agreement of cash and a potential land swap, not cash alone. Regardless, according to the original proposal a maximum of $45 million was earmarked for land acquisition.).

Again, according to my contact at New Ballpark Inc, that figure is now off the table. In fact, the so called negotiations for the acquisition of the land seem to be at a standstill because they never really started. It sounds like the only contact the land ownership group has had with the County is a report from the County appraiser suggesting that the land is worth much less that $120/sq. foot. and the formal notice of condemnation. This has, of course, set up an "adversarial" tone since the land ownership group is being told that they won't get what they were expecting, and if they don't accept that they will be forced to accept "fair market value" through a condemnation process. I can honestly say if I was the land ownership group and this was the only "negotiations" that had taken place so far I would probably be a little upset too. In fact, Rich Pogin, the spokesperson for the land ownership group wrote me with the following statement:

Let me summarize by saying I am shocked by the willful and blatant misrepresentations of the facts [in Sid's column and elsewhere]. When you see the response I think you will as well. More to follow...

The more to follow is a document he hopes the Star Tribune will print to clear up these misunderstandings. He has promised to let me see it also. I will post it when I have it.

Furthermore, while the condemnation process could indeed get the land purchased, it could also cause delays in the process (which could increase costs) because the "quick take" necessary seems to be muddled by the fact that the ballpark and surrounding infrastructure is being built for a private entity: the Minnesota Twins. For a "quick take" to happen there must be evidence of "public purpose." We can argue all we want about the public purpose of a ballpark, but when it gets to the courts it probably becomes more complicated.

Anyway, that is what I know, and my report is probably full of holes. My initial reaction to all of this is that it seems there are a lot of entities that need their backs rubbed and it is just flat out a complicated process. All of the above doesn't even take into account the problems we've been hearing concerning transit, light rail, and bike paths at the new ballpark! Can you imagine having to deal with all of this? Right now it must feel like herding cats.

To summarize, there is $90 million to pay for the land and the infrastructure. The County is making the realization that it probably isn't enough, and the land ownership group probably wants to be paid at least what was agreed upon in 2004. There will be no going back to the legislature for more money. They have to make this work. Does this mean the Twins will have to step in and bridge some of the gap? Does this mean they will have to scale back on some of the design of the surrounding infrastructure so they'll be able to afford paying for the land? Or does this mean there will be a condemnation process in the courts that could delay construction? According to a message I received from Dan Kenney, executive director of the ballpark authority:

"It's going to be an interesting couple of months ... [K]eep the faith."

Like you, all I want is a new ballpark. We've come too far to let something like this get in the way. I am confident something will be worked out.

Posted by snackeru at 8:04 AM | Comments (5)

January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

UPDATE: Sorry for my silence everyone. Details are sketchy, but I have been in contact with the MBA, New Ballpark, Inc. and the owners of the land. As freealonzo suggests in the comments below, Sid is missing some of the key details (as usual). But so am I. I am waiting for a document from Rich Pogin, spokesperson for the land owner, which hopefully will shed some more light on the problems with the land acquisition.

After sifting though the information I have, my heart tells me not to fear, that something will be worked out. I can't believe we could get this far and have it all blow up. More tomorrow (1/3), I promise.

Same item, one purchased December 30, 2006, and one purchased January 1, 2007. Can you spot the difference?



Happy New Year everyone!

(PS -- I've got some things to say about Sid's column yesterday. Stay tuned...)

Posted by snackeru at 3:21 PM | Comments (6)

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