March 28, 2007
STM's Happy Place
March 27, 2007
In case you missed it
Hennepin County board officials announced today they will conduct a closed legal briefing at 2 p.m. Friday on the Minnesota Twins ballpark issue, signaling that a breakthrough in a land dispute may be close.
Following the private meeting, the board will convene in public at 3 p.m. Friday.
Commissioner Mike Opat also is expected to present a resolution at today's board meeting to use the Government Center on April 5 for the unveiling of the ballpark's design.
Not that any of us are surprised by this news. I stopped worrying about this two weeks ago.
And on a related note, I've read some negative comments out there concerning the new Pioneer Press web site, but I must admit I don't agree with them. I like the new Pioneer Press web site. I think it is much better than the old one. Their old web site looked and functioned like it was put together by a 12 year old. This new web site is a vast improvement, and I know all about vast improvements.
Back to the stadium, though ... it looks like it will be over soon, Machiners. Maybe we should have another party!
March 26, 2007
Stuff I'd like to say
Well, at least it has been proven that I can win a bet. If you'll recall, zooomx and I made a little bet on who would go further into the Frozen Four tournament: the Golden Gophers or the St. Cloud State Huskies. As you probably already know, I won this bet in convincing fashion with the Gophers cruising past Air Force while St. Cloud State got crushed.
Zooomx now must wear a piece of U of M paraphernalia and take me to a Twins game where he will treat me to a delicious root beer float! What a deal! Zooomx, do you have any words that would let us know how you feel in defeat? (Note how I have not mentioned anything about UND?)
One of my new favorite blogs these days is The National Anthem Before a Cubs Game which is surprisingly about all things Minnesota. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Jon, the author of the aforementioned blog, wrote about the Minnesota sports scene after the hire of Tubby Smith:
One year ago, Gopher football and Gopher basketball were probably #5 and #7 on the local popularity list. In the year since, Maturi's fired both coaches and hired inspiring candidates for both positions. Gopher football is up to #3. This move may put Gopher basketball up as far as #4 - in less than three hours after Smith's hiring was confirmed, the U of M ticket office sold 254 season tickets for next season.
There are a lot of interesting things to think about in this statement. And while it is impossible for me to separate my own likes and dislikes from a list like this, just what are the most popular teams in Minnesota right now? Here is my list:
- The Vikings -- We all know that fans are more angry than ever with the direction of this team. But Chilly is right, if the Vikings are winning people will forget all about the so called problems of the team right now. I'm not sure how they expect to win with Jackson or Bollinger, but we'll see. All I can say is that two more years of bad communication, bad press, and bad teams and I will be longing for the days of Red McCombs. Yikes.
- The Twins -- The Twins are more popular now than ever, including 1991. With a new ballpark on the way they have a shot of surpassing the Vikes and a shot at retaining some of their key players. I just love the Twins. They are a closer second to the Vikings than ever before.
- Golden Gopher Football -- I am more interested in Gopher football than I think I have ever been. I have honestly considered buying season tickets. Tim Brewster is the antithesis of Brad Childress, he sells the program and makes us feel a part of it. If he ever makes it to the Rose Bowl, watch out Vikes.
- Golden Gopher Hockey -- Minnesota can handle a mediocre basketball team. They can tolerate a football team that goes to the Music City Bowl every couple of years. What Minnesota will never stand for, though, is a mediocre Gopher hockey team. I joined this bandwagon a few years ago because quite frankly it is nice that Minnesota dominates in at least one sport. If they were the only D1 team in Minnesota they would probably rank higher on the list.
- Golden Gopher Basketball -- Before Tubby, the Gopher cagers would have probably been a lot lower on this list, but now they have a chance of surpassing Gopher hockey. Not for a couple of years though. Gotta give Maturi a lot of credit for this one.
- The Wild -- Some of you may disagree with this placement, but I personally am not a big professional hockey fan. In fact, I don't have a lot to say about the Wild at all. I think it is great that Minnesota has a professional hockey team, but I personally couldn't care less about them. But I'll put them ahead of ...
- The Timberwolves -- I can't believe how pathetic this team is. In fact, I can't believe how little I care about the NBA in general. Besides KG, I just don't care. Think about it, it costs about $40 to get a decent ticket at the Target Center to watch a phenomenally mediocre team play other teams with, at best, petulant prima donnas that I also don't care about. I can't believe I'm saying this, but if the Timberwolves ever left this fair state I don't think I would be that upset.
And that brings up another point: how can the Twin Cities area support all these sports teams? And when the new Twins and Gophers stadiums open, some teams will really start hurting. The teams that will hurt the most? The Vikings and the Timberwolves, no doubt about it. Of course, the Vikings make me the most nervous. I expect the "moving to LA" rumors to kick into full swing around 2009.
Too many teams and too many venues. Spycake has been harping on this for a couple of years, but in a few years it will be plainly obvious. All I can say is I wish the big state college was in Mankato or St. Cloud because quite frankly a strong athletic department at the U of M will possibly fatally hurt at least one professional sports team in the Twin Cities. I just hope it isn't the Vikings.
March 23, 2007
A wager has been made
As you all know the Yankees of college hockey, the U of M Golden Gophers, will begin their march to the national championship in hockey in Denver tomorrow. Well, if you have read the comments from the last couple of days you know that the illustrious "zooomx" has challenged me to a wager concerning my precious Gophers. It would seem that zooomx is unfortunate enough to be a St. Cloud State Huskies fan. I know, it is hard to believe. Anyway, zooomx has suggested a wager, the winner of which is determined by which team, the Gophers or the Huskies makes it into the tournament further. The winner of the bet will reap these rewards:
How about we take in a Twins game and the loser buys the beer. If I win, you wear a SCSU sweater and post the picture on your site. If you win, I will wear a U of M sweater with a sign "Gophers rule!" which you can also post on your site.
Either way, I will take care of the tickets since I feel I owe you for your work on this issue.
Wow! That is quite a generous wager! In other words, I win no matter what! However, I don't drink beer so might I suggest a root beer float if I win, and a beer for you if (and that is a big if) you win? Is that a fair compromise?
Also, if anyone else would like to join us in this wager you are more than welcome. I'm not quite sure how to include more people in this bet, but I'm sure it is possible somehow.
Unfortunately, and even though I feel pretty confident in myself, I have probably now doomed the Gophers to a first round defeat. I have a horrible betting record. In the 5 years I have known Cheesehead Craig I have never won a bet with him. Ever. This sad fact has been well documented on this site.
Hopefully, and for the sake of the Gophers, my luck is about to change! Thanks for suggesting the wager zooomx! Let the games begin!
March 22, 2007
Wow. This is really surprising.
Are you as stunned as I am? Regardless of how you feel about the hire ... Wow! Can Joel Maturi ever keep a secret. If I ever need to tell someone something I need to be kept a little hush-hush, like the location of my buried treasure or the combination to my bike padlock, Joel Maturi is the first person I am going to think of.
If you want to know how I feel, I think Tubby Smith is a great hire. Tubby is a top-tier coach with a good recruiting record. His biggest strength, though, is his consistency. He gets to the tournament.
I gotta also say that Flip Saunders is an idiot. His dream job is gone. I honestly don't understand what the heck kept him him Detroit. I mean, the money is pretty good, to be sure, but he had a chance to coach at his alma mater, where he would have been treated like a god. He would have also been able to coach his own son. What a moron.
Welcome to the U Tubby! I give Tubby two years before he has the Gophers in the tournament again. I am looking forward to it!
March 21, 2007
Another reason for optimism
I received an email about this Hennepin County open house taking place next week:
Informational Open House: Traffic and pedestrian reroutes caused by ballpark construction. Representatives from Hennepin County Ballpark Project Office, Minnesota Ballpark Authority, City of Minneapolis, M.A. Mortenson (in charge of ballpark construction), and Northstar Commuter Rail Project will have information about the current closure schedules and can answer questions. Information also available on how to get updates.
Location: Environmental Services Building Visitor's Center, 417 N. 5th Street, Minneapolis. (Across 5th Street from Ford Center)
Date: Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Time: 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Questions: Chuck Ballentine, Deputy Coordinator, Hennepin County Ballpark Project, 390 Grain Exchange Building, 301 4th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415. Phone: 612-543-7274, Fax: 612-348- 7537, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I don't think it is any coincidence this open house is a day after the big HC Board meeting on the 27th. Anyone still think this isn't going to get done?
Conflicting points of view
Well, we are finally beginning to see some progress. However, and this has already been pointed out, we are seeing some conflicting attitudes from the principles involved. On the one hand we have the Twins. They seem to be optimistic and they are moving forward. We also have the Minnesota Ballpark Authority. They are also very optimistic. In addition, I have been informed that a high ranking official at the MBA is going on a week long family vacation to Disney World/Orlando FL. So, much like Bell in Florida, I doubt that anyone involved in this so deeply would be going to Florida on vacation if something hasn't been resolved.
And then we have the County. The County has the most to be concerned with at this point since they are the principle entity involved in purchasing the land. It is understandable that they should feel so ... is pessimistic the right word? Maybe cautious? They have to have complete assurance that the Twins will cover any cost overages on the land before proceeding. And while the Twins are now "taking bids" on land excavation, it appears very likely that an agreement has not exactly been signed yet. What can we make of this?
I think Ray pointed it out, but this is an obvious attempt by the Twins to put some pressure on the County. I am also confident that we can feel optimistic about this development as it appears likely the Twins will be bridging the gap. The County won't proceed without that assurance.
The HC Board meeting on the 27th will be a big day. For one thing, this stadium mess should be resolved by then. Also, the Board will be taling about the HC/Minneapolis Library merger. Lots of important issues to discuss. But back to the ballpark, next week is when we will get the nitty gritty on the upcoming agreement. It seems we need to be patient just a little longer.
But I am still very, very optimistic. I have no doubt, none whatsoever, that this will all work out.
Also, and I agree with Freealonzo, 52 degrees on opening day in 2010 would be fine with me. In fact, I would be thrilled. 52 degrees is actually the average temperature for April 5 for as long as they have been keeping records in Minnesota, I suppose. The high last year on April 5 was 63 degrees. In other words, I don't think we have much to be worried about.
Secondly, I have been challenged to another bet! And I just can't help myself. Zooomx has suggested a wager concerning which hockey team makes it further in the NCAA tournament: the Gophers or the Huskies. OK zooomx, I accept, as I think the Huskies are tanking it at this point and the Gophers are starting to hit their stride again. What are your terms, good sir? And anyone else want a piece of this action?
March 18, 2007
1979 vs. 2007
Neal Broten's game winning goal in the 1979 National Championship vs. North Dakota:
Blake Wheeler's game winning goal in the 2007 WCHA Championship vs. North Dakota:
Yet another great moment in Gopher hockey history.
March 16, 2007
Don't worry about it
Don't worry about the ballpark situation. It won't help. I must say I feel a certain sense of liberation right now over the whole thing. First of all there is nothing we can do. Secondly, and I've said this before, if the Twins let this slip away they deserve their fate.
Also, Charley Walters (and I know we have to take his words with a grain of salt) said just today:
Landowners of the Twins' downtown Minneapolis ballpark site continue to seek what Hennepin County and the Twins consider an exorbitant price, and it's becoming likely that some form of a land condemnation process will be required to move the project forward. That would mean the Twins probably would restructure their deal with the county. And, ultimately, that would mean Carl Pohlad, who returned Wednesday night from spring training, could bail the county out financially. Discussions continue.
People are talking on both sides. If they don't figure this out there is nothing we can do about it. Having said that, there is way too much money at stake for them not to figure this out.
I feel good. I feel free. It is out of our hands. The Twins will step up. It is their only choice. And if they don't I may actually laugh about it. They will be pouring $350 million right down the drain. They aren't that stupid.
March 15, 2007
I'm gonna write about whatever I want
Goodness gracious people, there has been way too much stadium talk around here. In the past I would have "stadium free" weeks where I wouldn't write about stadiums for ... well ... a week. I'm thinking I need to do that again. I'm just flat out sick of thinking about it.
But a lot of people are wondering just when this mystery announcement will come out saying the Twins stadium is back on track. Well, I certainly can't say for sure. But I know deep down in the bottom of my heart this will all work out. You can take that for what it is worth. I still feel good.
Well, there is a pretty good discussion in the comments of the post below concerning, it would seem, the legality or morality of paying for something you'll never use or don't want. In other words, why should some people have to pay for a stadium they don't want? Let me just say I appreciate the viewpoint of "Stop the Madness." I really do. We need people to push back, especially in this tax happy state.
However, in the three years of writing this blog I have read ever argument against the stadium and I have personally written every argument in favor. Through all of this, I have found that we are not going to change each other's minds. At this point it just isn't going to happen. So, I'm going to make this as clear as I can. I wanted a new stadium. I yelled, I screamed, I whined, and I wrote ... I wrote my legislators and I wrote in this blog. I got what I wanted, and regardless of Pohlad and his billions I did this for ME. I want to watch outdoor baseball. Let's not beat around the bush! Plus, I truly think Hennepin County will be a better place because of it. I'm really quite happy about it, but I can understand why you are upset. Better luck next time.
Speaking of which, Stop the Madness asks "what else can there be? I'm sure you'll come up with something." Indeed! There is a Vikings stadium to build, and it sounds like a lot of work is being done towards that goal already. It won't happen this year, that is for sure, and it probably won't happen next year either. But eventually it will happen. For better or worse, it is inevitable.
The NCAA tournament started today and I don't think I have ever cared less about it. I don't know what it is. Maybe the fact that the Gophers would not even make the Division II tournament has something to do with it. Or maybe it is because I'm not in college anymore and I have three kids. It is a mystery. If anyone wants to know, I picked Wisconsin, Kansas, Georgetown and Ohio State, with OSU to win it all. If even one of those teams makes it into the Final Four I will be stunned. Oh, and my "cinderella" was Oral Roberts. Yes, Oral Roberts! Luckily it really doesn't matter to me. I did pick VCU over Duke, though. That was a nice surprise.
You know what I really like? I like Jamba Juice. Quite frankly it is like drinking liquid heroin. I usually get a Strawberries Wild or a Banana Berry. There is a Jamba Juice at the U in the Coffman Memorial Union and I swear they never stop making Jamba Juice. There is a constant line. They must make money hand over fist at that place.
Where does that phrase come from, "hand over fist"? Well, I'm going to tell you. According to the site The Word Detective the phrase originated in shipping with the phrase "hand over hand" as in pulling or grasping a rope. The phrase came to mean "steady progress" and would be used to describe victory or success in a race or really any endeavor that takes some perseverance.
Eventually the phrase would change to "hand over fist" and describe steady progress in making money. Well, as we all know making a lot of money quickly is better than steadily making money and by the early 20th century the phrase changed to mean making tons of money as fast as possible. Now you know.
You know what else I'm really enjoying? The blog The National Anthem Before a Cubs Game. Some really good writing happening on this blog. I even read his columns about the Wild, and I don't even like professional hockey.
Heck, I'm on a roll. You know what else I like? I like Mac and Cheese from Noodles. I must eat this arguably bland sounding dish twice a week at least. Noodles has without a doubt the finest Mac and Cheese I have ever had the pleasure of consuming, and I recommend it highly.
Freealonzo wrote a great post this week discussing The Rock Hall's pick for the Definitive 200 albums of all time. The list is available on a subsite of the Rock and Roll Hall Fame. First of all, thanks to Freealonzo for pointing it out. I love lists, especially lists that attempt to rank rock and roll music. Endless discussion is possible. I can't argue too much with the top 10, although Nirvana's Nevermind might be a little high (as well as Pearl Jam's Ten). The first big problem I see, though, is Santana's Supernatural. How is this OK? It is ranked above Let it Bleed for goodness sake and only on the strength of the supremely annoying chick song "Smooth" by Rob Thomas. This album will not have any staying power. It is a travesty.
Secondly, how the heck did Shania Twain make it into the top 25 of a list by the "Rock and Roll" Hall of Fame? Not to mention the fact that of all the great country albums that have come out over the years, this is the best one? The most definitive? Johnny Cash must be rolling in his grave.
Finally, I am part of a leadership institute here at the U of M. As part of this leadership institute we were asked individually what recognized U of M leader we would like to have lunch with. On the list available, I picked three leaders, one of which was Joel Maturi. Well, I will be having lunch with Mr. Maturi at the end of May. I will be sure to ask him about the Gopher basketball head coach search. Is there anything else I should ask him?
Well, that is about it from me. Be sure to keep it real people!
March 13, 2007
I can't wait to think about just baseball again
From Neerland and Oyaas:
We understand that the soon-to-be-announced solution to the Ballpark land dilemma will include a more prominent role for the Twins and perhaps Hines in the development of the public infrastructure connecting the Ballpark to the rail and the rest of the emerging neighborhood along with downtown. It sounds like behind the scenes public leaders from Hennepin County and the Ballpark Authority along with the Twins have been able to make lemonade from lemons. The Twins and their architects have been eager advocates for making the necessary connections and directing more of that activity to their bailiwick can only benefit the entire community. Lest we forget, however, no matter how you slice and dice it, almost 80 percent of the funding will be coming directly from the public in the form of the 0.15 percent County sales tax. Bonds will be sold and the proceeds directed for Ballpark and infrastructure construction.
We trust that County leaders are willing to apply the green principles they actively tout in matters of construction to matters of financing; that is, keep it local and sustainable. Bonds backed by a sales tax in a growing regional economy such as ours should be as good as gold. Hopefully they will be available to as many of those of us who pay this tax, both individuals and area institutions. That is both justice and economic common sense. Executives of our local public finance institutions, notably Jim Campbell of Wells Fargo, played an important role in making the dream of a ballpark into a reality. Professionals from these institutions also put their talents into making this reality workable. Let green be the guiding principle and let’s hope that we can keep most of the green here in this community.
Why did we ever fret? Probably because we can't help it. But seriously, with all that free money coming towards the Twins, they would be complete idiots to let it all slip away over a few million more.
So, once again, a toast! Here is to green grass and open sky. May we all get sunburned in 2010.
March 8, 2007
Trying to make sense of all of this
First of all, I'm sure I'm going to make a mistake somewhere in this. So, if you see something that doesn't look right, please let me know. Secondly, I have to send a huge shout out to Alex for his description of the eminent domain process. In fact, he stole my thunder a little bit. I've been writing people for a couple of days now trying to understand what the process is, and then Alex just comes in and nails it. I think it is important for people to understand so I will print it again:
There are two different sets of proceedings: The quick take and the regular take.
Under the quick take, the county deposits what they think the land is worth, and they take title to the land, thus work can begin. The final price is agreed upon after the fact by the court, and the county either pays the difference, or gets some money back, depending on the outcome. The advantage is that they take title to the land right away, the disadvantage is that they are bound to whatever price the Court determines.
Under the regular take, the county does not take title to the land until all of the court proceedings are finished. That gives them an opportunity to bail out on the process if they don't like the way they think a Court will rule. This method goes through numerous hearings, which the County is doing. They've already gone through the notice requirements and determined that the stadium does in fact constitute a public use.
In short: If the county uses the quick take, there is no turning back. If their infrastructure and land costs then exceed 90 million, they've just violated the law. If the county uses the slow take, they gain more time to continue to negotiate while retaining a legitimate threat that they can acquire the land via ED. However, they can back out of that at any time, unlike the quick take.
Beautiful description. Just beautiful. The County is currently in the process of the regular take, and a value could come out of that process as soon as June 1st. According to Rich Pogin, that would set the world speed record for eminent domain proceedings which is especially amazing considering we've also heard this might be the most complex building project in the history of Minnesota.
Having said all of this, we are now hearing that a parking ramp could finally rid us all of having to think about this. Wouldn't that be nice. To quote the Strib:
[T]he ramp's importance could come from granting development rights above it to the landowners, who could, for example, generate revenue by building condominiums atop the two-level ramp. Downtown Council President Sam Grabarski said including the ramp in a land agreement could provide Land Partners II and Hines Interests, the two companies that own and control the stadium site, with additional compensation to bridge the sale-price gap between the county and the landowners.
What has become more clear in this is that Hines Interests, the Houston based partner of LPII, is becoming more and more front and center. In fact, when I asked Rich Pogin about the possibility of this parking ramp idea solving everything, he said he has been instructed by Hines not to comment on the negotiations.
And while Rich didn't say anything to me, he did say something to MPR this morning. Take some time to listen to the audio from this interview.
If you don't want to listen, I'll provide a little synopsis. Hines is handling land negotiations with the Twins and the County, and Rich is handling eminent domain proceedings. Rich also states that the Twins have made a proposal to the County to help bridge the gap that we've talked about ad naseum on this site. Rich speculates that some cash and some land rights will be a part of the deal. Rich also states that the court hearing for the regular take may be moved up to May 14th which would be even more amazing than June 1st.
Rich next says that the Twins stepping up and helping with the quick take would not make him happy because he would "spend six months to a year in a room with a bunch of lawyers." What is odd about this statement is that it sounds like a quick take would mean the whole eminent domain proceedings would start over.
Rich closes by saying he is "clueless" on parking ramp idea and that he thinks the idea came from Bruce Lambrecht. He hopes a deal is imminent and thinks that silence on this issue from all sides means we are close to a deal.
I am of the opinion that the parking ramp idea is a little sketchy at this point but that it has some merit. I have received confirmation though that the air rights around the stadium are the Minnesota Ballpark Authority's to award. In addition, if the MBA gives a lease to Hines for the air rights on top of the parking ramp, it will not count against the $90 million cap currently limiting the County. That is definitely a good thing.
Now remember, in his radio interview above, Rich mentions that a potential deal would probably include land and cash. It appears the land issue is potentially being resolved with the parking ramp idea. Let's talk about the cash.
The County still may need to come up with some extra cash to make sure they can cover the value as determined by the condemnation proceedings. It seems this is what the Pioneer Press article today was all about:
The owners of the downtown Minneapolis parking lot slated to be the site of the Minnesota Twins ballpark said Wednesday the team has made an offer to the county to help cut through the thorny land negotiations.
Hines Interests Limited of Houston, the managing partner in the deal handling negotiations for the owners, met with the team, which made a proposal to Hennepin County, according to Rich Pogin of Land Partners II, who represents the owners. The county is considering the offer.
I have received confirmation that if the Twins don't step up with more cash this whole thing is "dead." Minus, of course, the possibility that the County could go back to the legislature to change the site. But we all know nobody wants that, especially the Twins.
When you think about it, the Twins have always said that they feel an appropriate contribution for the team is one-third of the cost of the stadium. Right now, the Twins are contributing $130 million, and the County is putting up a whopping $350 million. This means that the Twins are only putting up 27% of the cost of the entire project. In other words, the Twins definitely can step up and still be within their "one-third" desired contribution. (And I understand the Twins probably only wanted to pay for one-third of the stadium, not one-third of the entire project including infrastructure. I just don't think that is realistic.)
I would like to think that the reason the Twins fought so hard to limit their contribution to $130 million in the enabling legislation was because they knew they would be called upon to spend more during the construction of the ballpark. This may be a little earlier than the Twins expected, but again, I would like to think the Twins somewhat expected this necessity.
This is how I understand today's news. Again, I could be wrong about some of it, or most of it. But I will close by saying everyone I corresponded with today were optimistic that a deal will be reached. I think we are close. Let's keep the faith.
UPDATE: I need to clarify something. While the County is currently going through the regular take, June 1st (even May 14th) is too late to keep this project on schedule. What I think the County is doing right now is getting their ducks in a row for the quick take. Obviously the Twins are playing a big part in this. Also, yesterday's news that Pogin testified the land is worth $10 million in 2001 further solidifies the County's stance and gives them more confidence they can proceed with the quick take. Keep in mind though that the County needs to make absolutely sure they have enough lined up to cover any possible valuation that turns out to be more than $13.35 million. They will not proceed with the quick take until they are sure the Twins will step up. Discussions are ongoing and it sounds like the Twins have made a proposal of some kind.
In the meantime, the MBA and the County are also talking with Hines and the Twins about the parking ramp. There is a possibility (and I think it is remote) that these negotiations could result in an agreement without proceeding with condemnation. More than likely, though, these negotiations will result in an agreement for the air rights over the stadium for Hines/LPII. Then, if the County is sure they can "bridge the gap" in terms of the eminent domain proceedings, they will go forward with the quick take.
This is what I think is happening. I could be wrong. In fact, I probably am. Let me know ...
March 7, 2007
Please end this
The Strib reports:
Although no deal appears imminent, county officials were optimistic enough about the progress being made that they suggested that a land deal and other critical stadium agreements could come before the County Board as early as March 27.
Whatever it takes, please let's get this done.
March 4, 2007
Enjoying the snow
It sounds like from Sid's column today that we will be able to put all of this behind us soon. So, with that knowledge I'm going to post some pictures of the totally awesome snow fort my son and I built yesterday. We had a blast.
March 3, 2007
Man I love you guys. I swear, all I really have to do is write a post that says:
"Hey everyone! How is it going?"
And then let all of you just go to town. In fact, I'm not sure any of you even read this schlock that I write. Unfortunately for you I won't let that fact stop me.
Let me make just one thing clear at the beginning. You should not take Sid's column last week about the Twins stepping into the fray lightly. There are discussions going on right now behind closed doors that may make all the stuff I write below moot. We can argue all we want about who is to blame more, the County or LPII, but in the end I think we can all agree that the Twins need to step up. And I think they will. In other words, I remain optimistic.
Having said that, I must also say that I remain a County sycophant. Mistakes have been made, to be sure, but in the end it is Mike Opat I will be thanking when this ballpark is built. I will not be thanking Land Partners II. Can you imagine? Thank you Land Partners II for delaying the project by trying to squeeze every cent you could out of the County and the Twins! I really appreciated it!
A lot of you disagree with this. That is OK. Truthfully we need pressure on both sides of this equation to see it through. The County certainly doesn't deserve a free pass for the mistakes they've made, but for the love of all that is holy that doesn't mean Pogin and Lambrecht aren't without fault either.
For me, it is a question of motivations. What is the motivation of the County? To build a ballpark and protect the public purse. What is the motivation of LPII? To make money. As a resident of Hennepin County I want costs to be kept down, I want ballpark infrastructure to be top notch, I want a fricken' ballpark so I can watch outdoor baseball! In other words, my motivations are a lot like the County's.
As Jeff T. has already said, until Land Partners II names their price and enters into negotiations, I will consider their actions shady and detrimental to the construction of the ballpark we all have been waiting 10 years for. I am as entrenched as those that would disagree.
One of the most ridiculous things I have read is that LPII is somehow exempt from negotiations because the County came in with what they consider a low-ball offer. How about they save everyone time and money, get their own appraiser, and make a counter-offer based on that appraisal? I'll tell you why that won't happen. Its because the chance for a huge profit is seriously diminished.
Condemnation makes a lot of sense for LPII since we've all seen that the condemnation process usually means a lot more money for land owners. It is NOT about getting fair market value. It is about getting more than fair market value. Usually I wouldn't fault someone for this, but when it jeopardizes a ballpark I've been fighting 10 years for, my sympathy for the landowners is seriously diminished.
That is my story and I'm sticking to it.
All I know, is when a movie is made that documents this whole mess, I want Ian Abercrombie to play Jerry Bell:
March 1, 2007
It is about time!
Even with the snow storm coming, the sky is a little sunnier for me today. The birds are chirping, and the sounds of children playing in a gurgling brook are wafting through my senses.
If you are anything like me, and the fact that you are reading my drivel on a daily basis probably suggests you are, you have seen this column by Sid Hartman today. Sid writes:
With Hennepin County commissioners unable to negotiate a price with landowners on the selected site for the new ballpark behind Target Center, Twins officials have gotten involved for the first time in trying to solve the problem by holding discussions with both sides to try to settle on a sale price.
Good, good, good. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, the Twins can either decide to pay more now, or pay a lot more later. Because if the County is forced to change sites, the Twins will be forced to pay for all those ballpark specific construction cost overruns. Changing sites makes a lot of sense for the County since it would be easy for them to stay within their $90 million cap on another piece of land, especially if they own it. As we've all heard, there is a 40 acre spot of land near 94 and the Mississippi, and the City of Minneapolis already owns it. Quite frankly I might even prefer a spot on the River, but it is in all of our best interests if the Rapid Park site works out.
Sid ends his good news with this reality check, though:
At this point, no progress has been made. The consensus among those close to the negotiations is that the Twins, who already have committed $100 million to the cost of building the ballpark, might have to contribute to buying the land to ensure the ballpark will be built.
Whatever the Twins are doing right now, it probably hasn't included putting up any money. Discussions are probably centering around how much it is going to take to bridge the gap, and hopefully brining LPII back to the table to actually negotiate.
And that brings me to the second part of my write up today. I received an interesting note from Rich Pogin yesterday in which he tried to clear up some misconceptions he thought I had written a couple of days ago:
The County representatives have repeatedly said they do not want to pay fair market value for the land if it exceeds their budget. We are a willing seller at fair market value. The County is not a willing buyer.
Regarding the 2004 Option for the ballpark site, between the Partnerships that own the land and the City of Minneapolis, I personally negotiated the economic terms of the Option with the two top Hennepin County finance people and with the participation of the City of Minneapolis staff. Everyone at the table knew that it was the County that would be assigned the Option rights and would exercise the Option.
The County made a written request for renewal of the Option in August of 2004 (not the City) which we turned down. They admit we turned them down. For the County has imply that some deal existed for the land is absurd and it not supported by any facts.
Shane our position on the stadium is the same yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow. The County can have the property, today, for its fair market value. We are willing to let the court determine that value. We are a willing seller at fair market value. The County is not a willing buyer. I think their strategy of attacking us first on this issue to cover up the fact that they are not a willing buyer was brilliant. They got people to believe we are not a willing seller with no facts to support their claim. But the truth has a strange way of always working its way out!
Here is what I don't understand, I guess. In fact I think there is a huge misunderstanding about all of this. Let's just get this out of the way: the County is a willing buyer, and LPII are willing sellers. They just seem to have different ideas of what that means. The County wants to negotiate and LPII wants to go through the courts.
I think it is a bit ridiculous at this point to suggest the County is not a willing buyer. I will concede that the County took LPII through the ringer and that probably caused some bad feelings, but the County right now is practically begging LPII to come to the negotiating table.
The County has always maintained that it will pay fair market value. They want to determine that value by attempting to negotiate a deal. I am mystified as to how the County can be portrayed as the stubborn party here when the LPII will not negotiate. Nor will they even name what they believe fair market value is.
Come to the table LPII!!! Rich, please, please, please, try to negotiate! If the County won't beg, I certainly will. With the Twins stepping in, they are not going to want to go through the courts. They will not agree to this blank check strategy. They want to know what their burden will be up front and I don't think anyone can fault them, or the County, for that.
Here is hoping that we will soon see an end to this. Today's news was good. I hope tomorrow's is better.