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February 27, 2007

Where have you gone?

mokeski.jpgWhere have you gone Paul Mokeski? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you ...

Posted by snackeru at 4:02 PM | Comments (6)

February 26, 2007

In Defense of Land Partners II

I got a couple of emails today. One was from Rich Pogin of Land Partners II fame that began:

"Shane your post has more holes in it then swiss cheese."

Needless to say, I didn't expect them to like the last few posts I have written. More importantly though, Rich sent me an interesting document concerning the infamous soils issue and their offer to the county for binding arbitration (PDF) over the $10 million we've all read about.

Hopefully it will shed some more light for some of you on this never ending stadium debate.

Secondly, I got an email from my neighbor, Cheesehead Craig. It seems Craig has also taken some issue with my pro-County stance. In fact, he has written something he would like me to post. I can't say I agree with everything in his essay, but I certainly recognize it as an opposing viewpoint in this debacle that is worthy of a voice. So, without further ado, here is Cheesehead Craig:

In Defense of Land Partners II

There has been much complaining about the stadium situation on this site (a huge shocker, I know) and much of it has been focused on LPII. Frankly, it’s wrong and I feel the need to have Shane post this on the site instead of having things buried in comments. I had some of these ideas in my head and yesterday’s comments brought these to light as well, so I’m certainly not creating anything original here.

It’s been pointed out that when determining the value of the land, its future use cannot be brought into the equation when doing the condemnation and the “eminent domain? procedures and any values given there. LPII cannot use that a stadium will be built on the land to increase their asking price. On that, I totally agree. However, let’s have the same rules apply to HC as well shall we? As has been stated here, HC saying that the soil needs work to build a stadium ($10M cost) and HC thus reduced the amount the appraiser gave of the land from the appraisal for the soil reconditioning to come to their offer to LPII for $13.5M. So it’s fair to say that the appraisal came in at $23M. The soil quality is irrelevant in the negotiations as what was stated earlier, future use has no bearing on the value of an appraisal. The County cannot bring this up as a negotiation tool. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. So, HC is basically offering just over ½ of what the value of the land is per their appraiser.

When an appraiser does a real estate appraisal, bias is to be taken out, but that rarely happens. Appraisers know who feeds them and will do their best to not to bite that hand. Appraisers will “massage? reports to come up with a value that will please their employer. I work in the mortgage business and have for 10 years. I’ve seen appraisals done by one appraiser on a home that is to be bought for 500k come in at 425k, then suddenly an appraiser that the agent knows does it and with the same comparables, comes in at 515k. Amazing how that works out isn’t it?

There is a fair amount of history with the state government agencies with low-balling appraisals when doing this. Ask any resident who was in the way of MNDOT about their home values given in this process. They were quite low, obscenely low even. I am sure that the boys at LPII are fully aware of how appraisals work and how they can BE worked, especially when the state/county government is involved.

Given this knowledge, it is likely that HC is offering less than ½ of the value of the land. If you were being offered 135k for your 290k home, would you even bother working with that buyer? You would not even regard that offer as serious and enter into negotiations or make a counteroffer. Not when you know that the buyer has a history of low-balling and you know that they have an appraisal that says your home is worth at least 235k from a dubious appraiser that they hired.

LPII was straightforward with their stance on eminent domain and told the county to go ahead and do it. HC knew what they were getting into a long time ago. LPII has said “Fine. You need the land quickly, take it via eminent domain and start building.? They are not holding anything up; in fact they are being extremely accommodating.

The problem now is that HC cannot bully LPII to take their offer like they have been able to do so with other parties that were on the receiving end of this process before. To come out now and say that LPII is being difficult given they won’t play HC’s game is disingenuous. As Moonlight Graham has pointed out in some comments, HC KNOWS their offer is way too low and is using PR to make it seem that they are the victims from the “greedy? LPII people. They’ve resorted to mud slinging, just like politicians who want you to look away from the important issues during a campaign.

It’s not LPII’s fault that the Twins stadium is being delayed and that the deal could ultimately fall apart. The legislation is at fault for tying the County’s hands. It was rushed through with too little planning and thoughts of consequences. Why should LPII be forced to pay for the County’s mistake?

If the County was so sure of themselves that they are right, so sure that their cause is just, why are they delaying the eminent domain use? Because they don’t have the money for a fair offer? Because their legislation was faulty? That is not the problem that should be laid at the feet of LPII.

So, there you have it. My thanks to Craig for taking the time to give us his thoughts. I'm sure a lot of you echo his sentiments.

At this point I must admit that like you, I am tired of this. I am happy that we all seem to have a better understanding of the issues, and it appears that most of us have picked a side to identify with.

I need to take a break now though. I can't keep rehashing all of this, and I'm not sure I have anything else to say.

So, you won't hear from me on this issue for a little bit. Let's all take a step back and wait for something new to talk about.

In all of this, I have been impressed that while we sometimes disagree, for the most part we have remained civil and understanding of each others' views. Thanks to all of you for the healthy debate. Until next time ...

Posted by snackeru at 9:19 PM | Comments (35)

February 25, 2007

Addressing some possible misconceptions

We've all got questions. Tons of questions. I have been asking a lot of questions and I have received some answers from a person close to the situation.

It is no secret that I am a County apologist. Without the County (and Mike Opat in particular) we would not even be where we are today. And I am of the opinion that where we are today is much better than where we were at the same time last year. We have the County to thank for this.

All of my questions have not been answered but this is a start.

Why didn't the County negotiate a price in 2006 with Land Partners II?

First of all, the 2004 option agreement was negotiated between Land Partners and the City of Minneapolis -- not the County. Prior to the ballpark legislation and the tax to pay for it, the County didn't have the authority to buy the land nor the money to pay for it. Again, LPII negotiated the 2004 option with Minneapolis, not the County.

The County did begin negotiations with Land Partners II in August 2006, around the time the County board approved the tax increase. Lambrecht, Pogin and Bob Pfefferle, project manager for Hines, were at the table.

It is also important to note that Land Partners II turned down the opportunity to renew the 2004 purchase agreement in August of that year. For what reason, we can't be sure. But by turning down the chance to renew that agreement it would suggest that the County had a clean slate to work with in 2006/2007. More on that later.

Did the County assume that Land Partners II would accept their first offer?

No. The County assumed that LPII would negotiate in good faith because of their lobbying for the project in the public and at the Capitol (as lobbying records have proven). I think we all need to keep in mind that, again, LPII turned down the chance to renew the 2004 agreement. Plus, there is a different reality concerning the downtown real estate market in 2007 than there was in 2004. Quite simply, 2007 is a different year. It has been suggested on these pages that the condo market in downtown Minneapolis is in the tank. In other words, three years later the market is drastically different. The County is making an offer based on a 2007 appraisal and 2007 realities.

Does the condemnation process come up with a value that is not defined as "fair market value" by the County? The reason people are saying the County can't afford the land is because it refuses to go through condemnation with its promise of a higher value on the land.

The County's job here is to protect the public purse. The County's full appraisal was completed by a certified appraiser and there is no reason to discount the appraisal -- they haven't seen any refutation of it. Land Partners II refuses to submit a number. The "quick take" effectively means the County abandons its appraisal and signs a blank check. The County has yet to see any evidence that the land is worth one dollar more than its appraisal. So far they are unwilling to submit to a process that may involve paying more than the appraisal says the land is worth. This may change, but that is where we are at.

There is reason to believe that the condemnation process will result in a judgment many times more than the appraisal because Land Partners reportedly values the land at $40-50 million or more. And as we've seen in the Kupchella report, condemnation would probably split the difference. That is unacceptable because the County flat out does not have that kind of money due to the $90 million cap. It would be a boon to the landowners, and probably more than twice what the land is actually worth in today's market.

Opat has also pointed out that a negotiated settlement would save huge legal costs, for both sides.

Is it acceptable that in order to build the ballpark itself, some infrastructure may need to be sacrificed?

The $90 million cap already means some things that are needed in terms of infrastructure won't be built. In reality, fans will not see a line between "ballpark costs" and "infrastructure costs." Poor infrastructure will degrade the ballpark experience. Opat in particular has said publicly many times, "We aren't going to build this project on the cheap." I think it is fair to say that the County wants desperately to build a first-class ballpark. For this they should be commended.

What is the hold up? Is it more than just the potential for the land being valued at more than than the County has? Or is that it?

That's really it. Again, the County has yet to see any evidence that the land is worth one dollar more than their appraisal, so the County is unwilling to submit to a process that may involve paying more than the appraisal says the land is worth.

The County has nothing to hide and nothing more to give. They have committed a full $90 million for infrastructure and $260 million for a ballpark. That is more than any other entity involved in this process. As the stewards of those funds they will only spend them on a project that will be first-class, and it appears they won't let one party hijack the entire project and degrade the public experience.

I would welcome Land Partners II challenging any of these statements. I think it is important to reiterate that LPII turned down the opportunity to renew the 2004 agreement, in 2007 an independent appraiser valued the land at $13.35 million, the County came forward with that number, and Land Partners II now refuses to negotiate.

Negotiating a settlement saves time and money for both sides. Why won't Land Partners II submit a number? Plain and simple because they are afraid of the public reaction. Again, I would welcome any comments by Land Partners II to the contrary.

In closing, I think some basic statements can be made concerning the County's efforts:

Hennepin County is committed to investing $350 million to create a world class ballpark.

The County is making good faith efforts to purchase the ballpark site on fair terms that protect the public trust.

The County will not unveil something they cannot afford to build or something they cannot be proud of.

The parties (and we all know who they are) with the most to gain from this project have not committed the resources necessary to ensure we can build the project we all envision.

Hennepin County will continue to work toward that goal with the hope that the unveiling will be possible in the not too distant future.

Are Land Partners II and Hines working towards that goal? No. They were at one point, but dollar signs seem to have clouded their vision.

Posted by snackeru at 1:09 PM | Comments (64)

February 24, 2007

Of trifles and unsubstantiated rumors

Well, today I'm going to go all "Charley Walters" on you. Today I am going to write about a couple of rumors the contents of which I will neither back up with statements from individuals close to the situation or tell you where I got the information in the first place. Well, that's not necessarily true since I got the first rumor from a Google search. But it is certainly unsubstantiated so you can choose to take it or leave it.

First let me say that I don't know what the true nature of the "soils argument" actually is. LPII and their group of experts claim the soil is fine to build on which may or may not save $10 million, while the County and their experts have claimed that the soil needs work. We have speculated (nothing more) that the argument centers around whether or not to drive piles into the ground ala the Target Center that is close by. The Target Center construction called for driving piles into the ground more than 100 feet to reach bedrock. You may be wondering what this actually means.

Well a Google search I did brought up this document concerning Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego (PDF). The pertinent part of the document I will quote here:

1. Foundation – Qualcomm was constructed in phases that encompassed some 29 years, it does not have a common foundation system. The initial construction is supported by piling that transfers stadium loads to bedrock. The stadium additions are supported by large spread footings. The result is differential settlement between sections 42 and 43 of four to five inches. This cannot be economically corrected. There is little question that this issue affects drainage and other maintenance issues and will likely be an issue of any modernization attempt.

In other words, there is a difference between building a stadium with "spread footings" and building a stadium with piles into bedrock. As you can see above, the differences in San Diego mean that Qualcomm Stadium cannot be upgraded. In fact, the stadium seems to be out of whack enough where a new stadium needs to be constructed.

I don't know if this is what the dispute is about, but if it is over the question of "spread footings" vs. "piles into bedrock" I think the County is choosing the latter and for good reason. We don't want the stadium to sink.

Secondly, I have heard the rumor that a group of legislators in the Minnesota House of Representatives is planning on putting forth a bill that will "repeal the County's authority to implement the tax on the grounds they have failed to meet certain time commitments and milestones established and/or contemplated in the authorizing legislation." If the person that gave me this rumor would like to claim it, I will let him/her do so.

According to the rumor the bill authors are currently looking for a Senate sponsor, and when they find one ... well things might get harder for the County.

It would seem that if this is true the County needs to spend some money or make an agreement to do so quickly. Actually spending money would make it harder for the legislature to back out of this deal. As of yet, there is nothing about stadiums in the House according to the House Bill Search tool, but that could change shortly.

Again, this is just a rumor, but one I think has some merit given that we all know there are some legislators who would love nothing more than to see this deal crumble.

Tomorrow I hope to write about some information that I've been gathering that will hopefully make the County's case a little clearer. If you've got something else to add, you know the drill. Take the above with a grain of salt, or not at all. I leave it up to you.

Posted by snackeru at 4:14 PM | Comments (34)

February 23, 2007

What is with the soil?

If you haven't seen the story yet, it can be found on KSTP.com in the video window on the right of the page. It is yet another interesting tidbit that sheds more light on this fiasco.

According to the news piece, the County may have another $10 million to play with if the two sides can agree on the condition of the soil the stadium will sit on. Apparently the County thinks a lot of work needs to be done, $10 million worth of work, on the soil or the stadium will sink.

The land owners, our friends at LPII say the soil is fine and their own experts, whose credentials include working on the Sears Tower in Chicago and the Petronas Towers in KL, Malaysia, say the soil is more than adequate on the Rapid Park site.

The story ended with Opat calling the issue "backnoise" and asking the landowners to come back to the negotiating table with a counter-offer.

There are a couple of good things to take away from this: 1) the landowners seemed to have approached the County with this idea and 2) I must admit I am willing to believe that the soil is fine.

Now, I am not a soil appraiser and it would behoove the County to be as careful with this as possible. If they capitulated and gave LPII that extra $10 million, then started digging only to find that the soil was in fact in need of major work ... well we would have a problem.

However, the very fact that the landowners seem to be excited about $10 million extra can be taken as a sign of something very good. Can we conclude that they might be willing to begin negotiating again if the County's offer was more like $23 million? It is something we have all suggested on these pages, and I think it is turning out to be true. $23 million may not be the final price they are looking for, but it sounds like they would be willing to talk with the County again if that number was made official.

Posted by snackeru at 4:38 AM | Comments (42)

February 22, 2007

Just a couple of tidbits

First of all, once again thanks to all the commenters to this site that have helped us all understand better just what is going on. I certainly appreciate all of your thoughts and feedback.

Now to the business at hand. I have been informed that a very important meeting will be happening tomorrow. This meeting could help determine if Hennepin County will have enough money to bridge the gap should they decide to carry through on condemnation. In other words, we could be getting some good news or some bad news tomorrow. I say could because this meeting is one of those happening "behind closed doors" so who knows if the media will be involved. Of course, I will pursue any news on the outcomes of this meeting that I can get my hands on.

Lastly, David Howe has pointed out this recent tidbit from Shooter over at the Pioneer Press:

"Make no mistake: Twins owner Carl Pohlad is not going to be enticed into coughing up more money to resolve Hennepin County's downtown Minneapolis ballpark land mess.

Meanwhile, the Twins and the new Ballpark Authority are closing in on a 30-year lease."

This seems to contradict other statements we've read that suggest the Twins may be willing to help, but not to expect them to give the County a blank check.

I just want to say that if this deal falls through and the Twins sit back and watch it fail because they don't want to contribute another $10-$15 million, I say good riddens to them. If they can pay Torii Hunter $12 million this year but nothing extra to ensure their long term viability in this market through a new ballpark, then they deserve their fate.

There are certainly other entities that can help bridge the gap in terms of the condemnation process and how it values the land. In fact, I think we are going to begin to hear some creative ways to bridge the gap (hopefully tomorrow). But the Twins could easily make this all go away. I can understand that they want to lay low right now, but at some point they may need to step up. If they don't, I will help them pack.

I'll probably write some more tonight.

Posted by snackeru at 7:20 AM | Comments (45)

February 20, 2007

KARE 11 stadium piece

Any comments? Personally, I thought Kupchella did a decent job, although again, there is no way Bruce and Rich were indifferent about the ballpark on their land after 2004. No way. They may have put together a Plan B, but that was only because no one, myself included, ever thought a ballpark bill would pass this godforsaken state.

Kupchella also said that the Twins would be responsible for the cost overruns on the infrastructure, so they care a lot about how much the county will pay for the land. Oops. Not quite accurate.

The fact of the matter is LPII, as represented by Bruce and Rich, were very, very, very active in the lobbying efforts to get this ballpark bill passed in 2006. If they didn't want the ballpark on their land after 2004, they should have told the County and the Twins to take their land out of the bill. They did just the opposite.

However, if they thought they would get the 2004 deal again that would certainly explain their enthusiasm during the legislative process (and believe me they were very much on board), and their lack of enthusiasm for what was finally offered in 2007.

One thing that I liked about the Kupchella report, though, was the examples of different land spots in Minneapolis that have gone through a condemnation process. Every one of them was valued by the court at twice as much as the original assessment. That would mean approx. $26 million for this land (based on the County's independent assessment of $13.35 million).

Kupchella also said that LPII is right now preparing a counter-offer to the County's offer of $13.35 that they will present to the court. It sounds to me that we will only get a counter-offer number if the county carries through on condemnation.

Condemnation still sounds the way to go. More tomorrow (maybe). Thoughts?

Posted by snackeru at 10:11 PM | Comments (53)

February 19, 2007

Repeat, rinse, repeat, rinse ...

I don't know what else to say about this issue (as evidenced by my last two posts). Over the past few weeks we've hashed over and rehashed all the issues ad naseum. You know what is really frustrating about this? There is really no one to send a nasty letter to. Back during the legislative battle I could always take out my frustrations on some unsuspecting legislator (in a respectful, but stern, manner of course), but now?

Now we are just waiting. Waiting to see what happens. Waiting, and as you can see below arguing, debating, and writing about the issue. Egads am I ever sick of it.

So, here is what I was thinking. I want to write the definitive set of bullet statements that will once and for all spell out succinctly and concisely what we know concerning the Twins stadium fiasco. I'm sure I'll get it wrong somehow. Let me know if I should add or subtract anything.

As far as I can tell, that is what we know. At this point I would be surprised with LPII coming back to the table to negotiate. In other words, I don't think we'll find out what LPII thinks the land is worth ... ever. Condemnation, a site change, or no ballpark. That is where I think we are at.

Posted by snackeru at 10:36 PM | Comments (49)

What can't I write about Barry Manilow?

barrym.jpgPeople! A couple of commenters on the post below questioned my ability to write something about the wonder that is Barry Manilow. You dare doubt me? Barry is a virtual cornucopia of material on which to pontificate!

I'm sure you all know about how Barry sang hits like "I Write the Songs", "Mandy" and "Copacabana," and how he has sold over 75 million albums worldwide. That stuff is obvious. However, there is also this unknown story about Barry that may shed more light on his dominating personality and studly persona.

Barry was once asked to play at Lambeau Stadium in the 1970s. Barry said, "Sure! But you have to give me that sweet 5 acre parcel of land next to the cheese curd factory."

The city of Green Bay was a bit confused by this request, but quickly decided in the affirmative. They justified this by saying, "Getting Barry Manilow to come to this one-horse town will fill our overrated stadium to capacity, giving us enough revenue to build that beer fountain in front of the children's nursery we've always wanted."

When the time for the concert came Barry quickly found that Green Bay had already given away his 5 acre parcel of land to a local haberdasher selling bright orange hunting hats.

Barry went on a rampage! Turning his angry gaze to the Green Bay Butterfly House, he stormed inside and quickly dispatched of 2,134 butterflies, including the rare Amazonian Cheek Tickler.

As part of his probation, Barry was forced to do the voice-over for this Twinsville commercial that aired in 2004 on Patriot radio.

Spooky, heh? Now you know.

Posted by snackeru at 7:42 AM | Comments (5)

February 18, 2007

Stuff I would rather write about

I am so sick of this. Phenomenally sick of this. Stupendously sick of this. I can't even think straight anymore I am so sick of this. There are so many things I would rather write about. For example, I would rather write about:

In fact, I love butterflies and flowers. Take a look at this picture:


What a pretty butterfly! What a pretty flower! Tee hee! TEE HEE I SAY! Fly away butterfly! Fly away!

Oh no! What is this? The big boot of LPII is coming for my butterfly! The big boot of LPII is coming to stomp my butterfly! Stay away LPII! Don't hurt my butterfly!


Ahhh!!! LPII has killed my butterfly! I didn't have enough money for my butterfly! So LPII mercilessly stomped my butterfly to death. Now I won't be able to watch my butterfly anymore. Why?

Why did my butterfly have to die?

I need help.

Posted by snackeru at 9:48 AM | Comments (66)

February 16, 2007

What else is there to say?

Holy crap people! I have been extremely ill for the past couple of days and unable to join in the rip-roaring discussion on the last post. Wow. I definitely learned a lot.

And although I don't agree with Stadiumshill's views on Mike Opat and the other commissioners, I must send a big thanks out to him for his educational and enlightening thoughts on the situation. I wouldn't be surprised if he was a minority investor in the Rapid Park site himself. Essentially, Stadiumshill's thoughts can be summed up in his last comment of the previous post:

HC needs to get off their arse; grow a pair and condemn this thing or it will not get done.

LPII is NOT going to offer a price and IS NOT a willing seller. It's either "eminent domain" or "find another site." (period)

Minus the vulgar language, I agree with this sentiment. It would appear that Hennepin County does indeed only have two choices at this point: condemn or find another site. Originally, HC began eminent domain proceedings last November only as a safeguard in case something didn't work out. They absolutely, though, do not want to follow through on these proceedings. HC is afraid, plain and simple, that the proceedings will find that the land should be valued at much more than they have at their disposal. My contacts are calling it "a nightmare scenario."

My contacts are also saying that we are wrong to think that condemnation favors the government. When it takes privately owned land, government is exercising an extraordinary power. It's a power so extraordinary that it's spelled out in the Constitution -- the 5th Amendment: "Private property shall not be taken for a public use, without just compensation." In Minnesota, condemnation disputes are handled by a panel of three "commissioners," as was pointed out in the comments of the previous post. There are no guarantees that the County will fare well in condemnation. It doesn't matter if Harry Crump (God bless him) presides over the condemnation case -- the commissioners will submit to the judge a price. It is unlikely that the judge would overrule that recommendation. Not to mention, if either side feels hurt badly by the decision reached by those commissioners, they can appeal to a jury, where the outcome is even more unknown.

Truth be told, if LPII does not come back to the negotiating table soon with a counter-offer and an appraisal of their own to back it up Hennepin County will find another site. That is the deal. Or is it?

This brings up another point which I have been pondering. In a recent issue of the Downtown Journal, Mike Opat is quoted as saying:

“We would prefer to negotiate [privately], which saves time and attorneys’ fees,? he said. “We were hoping for a negotiated settlement, we’ve attempted a negotiated settlement, we’ve been met with unreasonable resistance, and so we’re just in a waiting mode right now until we decide if we’re going to continue on the site.?

Opat said the county is talking to the Twins about their appetite for handling cost overruns in the land price and some infrastructure costs. The estimate of cost overruns changes from day-to-day, he said.

While we can all assume that Hennepin County is looking for a new site right now, my gut tells me they are more vigorously looking for ways to pay potential cost overruns. This is backed up by the ending statement of the recent Strib article on the debacle:

Opat said the county is discussing its options with the Twins, including asking the team to pay the price difference with the landowners.

"They have their limits, too, and they've made that clear," he said.

So, it sounds like the Twins are on board with bridging the gap. That is extremely good news. Unfortunately, though, the article makes clear that the gap may be more than the $7-$10 million we've been suggesting on these pages. As we've all read the value LPII is looking for may be $40-$50 million (Sid wrote to this effect yesterday also). Other entities are surely in play besides the Twins.

The Strib article also mentioned that the County is looking at the land around the Brookdale Mall. I must admit, I find this kind of thing fun to read about. Having read that, I can imagine that other suburbs are right now considering other parcels of land to propose to the County. We are talking about a half a billion dollar construction project that now seems to be somewhat up for grabs. I seriously wonder what Minneapolis politicians think of all of this.

Well, I've rambled on long enough. I will end with some questions that I hope to get answers to soon.

  1. The County definitely feels going through the condemnation process is a nightmare scenario. A bigger nightmare I would think is a determination that the Rapid Park site is untenable and the County/Twins have to go back to the Legislature to revise the Twins bill. What gives the County confidence that the legislature would even entertain them coming back this year? I don't know, but bringing the legislature back into the equation just makes me phenomenally jumpy. I don't like it.
  2. Why doesn't the County take its chances on the quick-take process? They get the land now and can start planning and developing the site and they push the cost issue down the road a year. That gives them more time to work over the Twins and other possible entities for financial support and maybe even the legislature for technical changes to the ballpark bill. Yes, condemnation hearings don't necessarily favor the government, but I think it's extremely doubtful that the 3 person panel or a jury will grant tens of millions more than the County's assessed market value.
  3. What does LPII expect to get for the land without a ballpark there? This is a question that is really bothering me. In the comments of the last post Stadiumshill brought up the concept of "fiduciary responsibility" which is a term used to define the responsibility of those charged with protecting the interests of minority investors. According to Shill, LPII needs the eminent domain proceedings to protect themselves from being sued by its minority investors. Another commenter, The Rational Actor, disagreed somewhat with Shill's assessment, but what I want to know is doesn't LPII think they'll get sued if a stadium isn't built on the Rapid Park site? Without a stadium, I would think the value of the land plummets (who wants a condo behind a garbage burner?). Without a stadium, the grandma investor in Houston that was expecting 30K for her investment will definitely only get $15K, probably less. In fact, I am of the opinion that without a stadium that land will remain a parking lot for the next 50 years. Does LPII really think they can develop it into something more without a stadium? Look at the problems Block E is having. I just don't get it.

It is my hope that the County is right now trying to find more money to pay for land cost overruns. Having secured this extra funding it is my hope that they go through with the condemnation proceedings. It is my belief that eminent domain proceedings will not value the land anywhere near $40-$50 million. In fact, I would be surprised with a value of anything near $30 million.

Needless to say, it should be an interesting next few weeks. And while I can hope for all of the above, I wouldn't be surprised if the County announces soon that it has dropped the Rapid Park site from consideration, and that it will be looking for a new site. If that happens, c'est la vie. I just want a ballpark.

Posted by snackeru at 12:05 PM | Comments (72)

February 11, 2007

Stadium notes

• Today I'm feeling more confident that this will all work out. It doesn't take a genius to realize that what we read in the newspapers and what we hear on the airwaves is only a small part of the story. And what we've been hearing and what we've been reading so far has focused almost solely on the County and Land Partners II. Obviously, there are other entities that will benefit from a ballpark in downtown Minneapolis. And these entities definitely care about whether this ballpark is built or not. I'm sorry to be so cryptic, but you know and I know that backroom discussions are currently happening outside of the limelight.

Nothing is ever certain. As fans of Minnesota sports teams we definitely know that is true. But this deal won't fall apart until every option is explored. I've been told that "we are only in the 5th inning." That will keep me going for while.

• Jeff T. writes in about his conversation with Patrick Reusse Saturday morning:

I agree with with Ruesse 100% when he states that the land owners will look bad until they let the public knows their asking price. He states that they have been offered $13.5 million by Hennepin County for their "ditch," which is public knowledge. If the public finds out that Land Partners II are actually asking $15 million and Hennepin County has turned them down, we know they are getting low-balled. However, if we find out they are asking for $30, $40 or $50 million for land currently valued at $8 million, this would (and I quote Ruesse) "expose them as no-good, despicable jack-asses." Amen to that. It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks.

And that is the $64,000 question: what is the price Land Partners II is asking for? We know the County has submitted a proposal of $13.35 million. We do not know what LPII thinks the land is worth. I think that is shady, plain and simple, and that is sugar coating it. As we all know the 2004 agreement called for cash and a land swap. $13.35 million is a generous offer for the land the ballpark will sit on, but what is the 4.97 acres of land worth that was a part of the original land swap agreement?

LPII is looking to get something for that land that they thought would be given to them as part of the agreement. Since 4.97 acres is about half the size of what the main plot is, can we reasonably assume LPII is looking for about another $7 million? Would $20 million get the job done?

Of course, this is all speculation on my part. I must admit if I find out LPII is asking for more than $20 million I will join the chorus of disgust.

However, if LPII finally comes out with a price $20 million or below, some other entities had better step up to bridge the gap. The County cannot continue to bear this burden alone, not with so much at stake. I've already mentioned the Twins, but who else will benefit from the building of this ballpark? I think we will begin to find out the answer to this question in the coming weeks.

• I haven't talked about the Vikings stadium situation at all with the Twins stadium debacle dominating the news, but I have not been impressed with Zygi Wilf. More specifically, I have not been impressed with Zygi's ability to learn from past mistakes. The Twins made enough mistakes to write the definitive book on "How NOT to Build a Stadium." Zygi doesn't seem to be paying attention.

The governor's response to a possible 7 county metro-wide sales tax was laughably predictable. Ummm ... no.

And now with the Twins stadium debacle, the legislature is seriously questioning whether or not passing another stadium bill for the Vikings is a good idea.

This brings me to what I feel is the only realistic option for the Vikings if they want to fix their own stadium mess within the next 5 years: renovate the Metrodome.

I wrote about this back in October (end of post), and the option is mentioned again by Charley Walters today:

It's beginning to look as if the Vikings' next stadium will end up as a renovated Metrodome at a cost of about $500 million.

Will Zygi listen? Probably not, but it is definitely an option that should be explored at the very least. More later!

Posted by snackeru at 8:10 PM | Comments (79)

February 10, 2007

My synopsis of the situation

What a dumb hobby for me to pick. Stadiums in Minnesota. Just plain stupid on my part. Nothing but pain and suffering. I guess as a Vikings fan I am kind of used to it though. And do any of us doubt that this is just the beginning of the problems with building the new Twins ballpark? I almost guarantee that when they start digging, wherever it is, they'll find the ruins of the lost city of El Dorado or they'll find a Stargate that will transport people back to an ancient Egyptian civilization. All construction will stop. It is inevitable. When Kurt Russell shows up don't say I didn't warn you.

First of all, thanks to everyone that have written in to this site. Some really good ideas and thoughts have been posted. Based on these comments, and based on what I am reading at other sites like Minnescraper.com and Battle Your Tail Off I think there are some definite themes emerging.

For example, there is an overall dislike (maybe even despising) of Land Partners II that seems to be pervading the discussion. A couple of weeks ago I wrote in these very pages that if this deal falls through Land Partners II will take the brunt of the blame whether that blame is justified or not. This seems to be proving true. I am seeing statements like "Can we tar and feather Land Partners II yet?" and "Eminent domain was made for ***holes like these. I hope they choke on what they get....bastards!!" and "So in conclusion, it sounds as if LPII, the owners of the land, are a bunch of ****ing douche bags."

Of course, this disgust with LPII has reached its climax with a column by Patrick Reusse today which called the land "Bruce's ditch" (a reference to Land Partners II bigwig Bruce Lambrecht) and questioned Lambrecht's motives in switching sides to be in favor of the NorthStar line when he found out it would go through his land. Then there were these harsh words:

Officials of the Twins and Hennepin County now have been reminded what can happen when you wiggle into a sleeping bag with a hypocrite.

I don't know if Land Partners II cares what Reusse thinks ("sticks and stones" and all that) but I can't believe that this overall sense of disgust from the Minnesota public isn't having some kind of an impact on them. No one likes to be disliked so intensely.

The second theme to emerge from what I am reading and hearing is that most people think Hennepin County should bite the bullet and condemn the land. Again, for those of you just joining us, there is a fear that if Hennepin County condemns the land and goes through the eminent domain process it will be decided that the land is worth more than they have. Reusse mentions that some people think LPII is asking for something in the $50 million range, and that is simply an outrageous amount of money.

This theme is best exemplified by statements by freealonzo, jlichty, and David Howe, three readers of this blog. Freealonzo writes:

The fact is that the County will be able to gain control of the land through the Quick Take process. In fact I think LPII (Land Owners) has even agreed to this. That's the key. The County/Twins can go forward with design, move dirt around, put out bids for construction, etc. During all this somewhere in the bowels of the court system the eminent domain process is going through the meat grinder. Twelve months from now we will have a ballpark design, perhaps a ballpark name, City/County approvals are in place, permits issued, infrastructure being built, contracts being let, sales tax revenues being collected, and the eminent domain hearing will end. Either the County has enough $$$ or it doesn't. If it doesn't THEN there is consternation. Either we have to hit up the Twins for more land acquisition costs or go back to the legislature.

Well said. We'll come back to a couple of points in there later. Jlichty writes:

The eminent domain proceedings will favor the County and will screw the landowner as such proceedings nearly universally do. Land Partners does not hold the card here - and they are at the mercy of the court system, that is why they are posturing this way ... The county will get the land without the land swap ...

I absolutely agree with this. One only needs to say the name "Harry Crump" to remember that judges will usually side with the public good in disputes like this. It won't take much for the County to be able to prove that the land isn't worth near $50 million. We'll come back to this later, too.

Finally, David Howe wraps it up by saying:

I think the county is being overy cautious about the eminant domain proceedings. This is why eminant domain exists. As others have pointed out, the outcomes tend to favor the government, not the private citizen. If the ruling did come in over the $13 million, it would probably be by a small amount, not 'tens of millions' that they are currently apart in the negotiations.

If they are so concerned about what an extra $5-10 million for the land might do to the rest of the infrustructure, why don't they just sit down with the Twins and get them to agree to cover whatever the difference is in writing?

Again, the court proceedings will probably favor the County and the difference in land value that the County is so afraid of will probably be a relatively small amount.

David and Freealonzo both also mention the third theme that is emerging. Where are the Twins in all of this? Why can't they come forward and pick up the rest of the tab? Why not indeed. I must admit that their silence is making me a little angry. Here we have a number of politicians that have literally put their careers on the line for them (especially Mike Opat) and they are content to remain silent and/or put the blame on the land owners. This is shameful.

We now turn to the words of Mike Opat as captured by our own Vince and a discussion on Battle Your Tail Off. According to these sources, Mike Opat had some very interesting things to say on KFAN yesterday afternoon. Accoring to Opat the land has been appraised at $8 million and the County is offering $13.35. Again, with those two figures I can't see a judge approving the sale for much more than that. Opat also mentioned that the land owners are not negotiating in good faith and it sounds like they have not even made the County a counter-offer. This definitely suggests that the numbers are way off. Opat also mentioned that he thought if they did have to go back to the legislature they may be able to get an amendment without opening the bill up to the entire floor again. I'm not sure how this is possible, but it sounds good to me! Finally, and most importantly, Opat said that they have been talking with the Twins and it sounds like they are open to contribute more and/or the possibility of a new site.

This is very, very important. The Twins need to step up here. If the Twins let this deal fall through, if they thumb their noses at hundreds of millions of dollars in public money over a few extra million to pay for the land they will have no one to blame but themselves. If I read Opat's statements correctly and the Twins are willing to possibly make up the difference, then let's proceed with the condemnation process and let the chips fall where they may.

Someone has mentioned on another site, I can't remember where, that this may all just be a ploy to get the Twins to contribute more. Whatever the case, whether the County decides to proceed with the Rapid Park site condemnation or the County decides to pick a different site, it is obvious to me that the Twins will need to step up to the plate.

Personally, I can also see this all as a ploy to get this dispute onto the public airwaves. The more people that hear about this mess and discuss it, the more likely that a future judge or jury will hear about it and make the right decision in a future eminent domain hearing. Maybe "ploy" is the wrong word, but I think it will definitely have that effect.

Anyway, to wrap this up, I see three themes: a strong dislike of Land Partners II, a feeling that the condemnation process will most likely favor the county, and a feeling that the Twins could and should easily make up the difference. It is my hope that Land Partners II decides to take the money and run, but if a condemnation process is necessary I think there are ample reasons to believe the County will come out on top. I think they should do the "quick take" and start digging. What about you?

What should Hennepin County do?
Go with the Rapid Park site. Condemn the land and pray the Twins will get off their fat cat butts and make up the difference.
Change sites. Build exactly what they want on another site causing a construction delay which will force the Twins to pay more on the ballpark.
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Posted by snackeru at 10:52 AM | Comments (19)

February 7, 2007

I am a little flummoxed

UPDATE: I'm mulling all of this over. My gut reaction is to start assigning blame and then write a slash and burn post that will lay waste to everyone involved. But I'd like to be more thoughtful than that. Let's just put it this way: I am becoming more and more of a Gopher fan everyday. Stay tuned. Later.

UPDATE: For a more optimistic take on all of this, please check out Freealonzo's Lost Forest After Dark and more specifically his post Twins Ballpark Woes(?). Good stuff. Also, the comments below have some very interesting thoughts on this situation.

For those of you that are new to the Greet Machine, here is a little history. I started this blog on a server in my basement in November 2003. I started it because I was frustrated with the lack of stadium news in the local newspapers, and I was upset that the Twins Geek wouldn't write about it more. Seriously. I used to forward the Twins Geek what I thought was some pretty good information, and he would never use it! I quickly found out that not all Twins fans care about the stadium as much as I do. In fact, I was surprised to find that the average Twins fan doesn't care about the stadium at all. Stadium talk to most Twins fans is like an annoying mosquito. Most Twins fans think it will all just work out.

For three years I have been writing this blog because I disagree. I thought it was important to get involved. I wrote almost every day about the Twins stadium and gave commentary on what I thought was happening. Based on questions from readers, I put together what became known as the Greet Machine Voters' Guide. This guide listed out every legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives and how I thought that legislator would vote if a stadium bill ever reached the floor of the House. If you click on the link above you can still see my predictions if you look at the source code of the file.

This Voters Guide proved to be amazingly accurate. More accurate than I ever thought possible. I have been told that it gave many people involved hope and confidence that the votes were actually there. In more tangible terms, though, the Voters Guide put me in touch with a lot of people involved in the process. People in government and others working almost full time to make a new Twins ballpark a reality started to correspond with me. These people began to share information with me, and I in turn shared this information on the Greet Machine. We all had a common goal: we all wanted a new Twins ballpark.

When the legislature passed the bill, we all celebrated. It was a very fun time.

I don't tell you all of this to "toot my own horn." I just want to point out that I have somewhat of a history with this topic. Stadiums in Minnesota are my bread and butter. The topic has become my hobby.

If you've been following the Greet Machine lately you know that there has been a bump in the road. In fact, I have to admit that recent developments have me a little flummoxed. Let me make one thing clear, though, a ballpark will be built. Money is being collected for this purpose. Increasingly the questions are becoming not if, but when and where. The land purchase is a real obstacle and it is not something that will easily rectify itself.

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but Land Partners II wants at least what was agreed upon in 2004 (cash and a land swap), and Hennepin County does not have the money or resources to make it happen. It is clear this is not as simple as sitting down at a table and just "working it out."

In fact, I've heard that Hennepin County is currently preparing amendments to bring to the legislature that will allow them to change the site. I know some of you don't believe me. Heck, even I hope I am wrong. The Rapid Park site has some great aspects to it, namely all the transportation possibilities in the area. But it doesn't appear to be working out.

The City Pages posted a great article on the topic today. It provided some great context to the current land acquisition problems and spelled out more clearly just what is at stake in all of this. What it didn't mention, though, is the possibility of the County building the ballpark somewhere else.

So, I asked Rich Pogin this question. Rich Pogin is the spokesperson for Land Partners II. I asked him if he had heard the County is preparing amendments to change the site. This is his reply:

Shane I did here that from a clip on Sid Hartman's radio program. Let me know if you want us to email you the clip. Regarding our position on this, we see it as good news. This is America where you have freedom of choice and that's what makes this country great. If there are practical alternatives, not only should the County and the Twins pursue them I believe they are obligated to pursue them. I see this a good news for our investors and Twins fans.

I expect the County to drop their Minneapolis ballpark effort by the end of this month. I expect they will attempt to blame the cancellation of their effort on "the greedy land owners" rather then face up to the facts that the legislation is flawed. I presume that when they go back and ask for site unspecific language they will request that the land can
be acquired at "fair market value via eminent domain."

As the Twins Geek would say, "Blink blink." Did I read that correctly? If this is accurate, and not a counter-bluff, we are definitely a couple of years off on our 2010 date with outdoor baseball.

People, I honestly don't know what to think anymore. Like you, all I want is a ballpark. Sadly, however, I'm not sure I am helping in this process anymore. I like the people at Land Partners II. I think they are justified in their demands. I like the people at the County. I also think they are justified in their offer of $13.5 million. That is all they have. It would seem that the County has decided since they don't have enough money that they will start looking around for a different site. Obviously this is a dangerous proposition because who knows what will happen when they go back to the legislature. I'm still unsure how I feel about this. I guess I am still hoping that when Randy Johnson says there is a 50/50 chance the Rapid Park site will work out there is still a chance we won't have to worry about this.

Before I start just rambling I will wrap up by saying again that the County is currently collecting a large amount of tax money for the purpose of building a ballpark. A ballpark will be built. I think ...

I wish it could be at the Rapid Park site, but I will withhold judgment on other possible sites until we hear for certain that new sites are being considered, and until we hear where those sites are. Maybe there is a site out there that will make more sense. All we can do is wait and see.

Posted by snackeru at 9:22 PM | Comments (51)

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."


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 12:06 PM | Comments (19)

February 1, 2007


• If I had some news I would definitely share it with you. Unfortunately, I know about as much as you do about what is going on at this point. I don't think an actual agreement has been crafted yet between the land owners and the County. What they are still trying to do is negotiate a sale price for the land without having to go through the condemnation process. The County desperately wants to strike a deal so they will know how much money they'll have for infrastructure. If they can't strike a deal, the County will do the quick take and will be forced to pay an unknown amount later as determined by the condemnation hearing(s).

That is how I understand it. I would post more information if I had it, but I am of the opinion that the worst is over now. The County will get the land. If anyone has any other information to share I am all ears.

• Two dates to keep in mind:

Anytime now, perhaps even today, the Vikings will release their own stadium dreams for the land on and around the Metrodome site. This is exciting for me for a couple of reasons. One, it provides me with another stadium to pine over (and quite frankly that is my bread and butter) and two, I am especially fascinated by the potential funding for this endeavor. I think we'll know right away whether or not this will fly based on Zygi's own contribution (it had better be huge) and what kind of public assistance he expects. The public assistance piece is obviously really, really important because as the Twins stadium battle demonstrated the state won't help. We all know that Minneapolis is constitutionally prohibited from providing more than a few pennies, and Hennepin County is already on the hook for the ballpark. Where will the money come from?

My guess is that the Vikings will suggest a 7 county-metro area tax. That, my friends, will go over like a lead balloon. As I've said before, if that happens, we are years away from a new Vikings stadium. Probably 2013 or 2014. We'll know more soon.

The second date to remember is February 15. This is the date that the stadium design will be presented to the Hennepin County board. This is the date we will find out just what shape this thing will take and hopefully we'll have lots of pictures to mull over.

That's it for now. Peace out and all that ...

Posted by snackeru at 7:01 AM | Comments (14)

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