The land ownership conflict has now gone on much longer than anyone (including me) anticipated. I've thought all along that this is just hardball negotiating. But now I'm beginning to think otherwise.
Though I don't really have any inside information, reading between the lines is pretty easy. The landowners believe they have the county and the team over a barrel. They believe that the only way the park will get built is on their land. They believe that no one has the fortitude to go back to the legislature so soon. They also believe that, since the county has a cap on how much it can pay for the land (which it does), the Pohlad family should step up and write a check for the difference (which they could, but most certainly will not). The team is, after all, on the hook for all cost overruns.
Who Owns What (Click for larger version. Source: Ballpark Authority)
The whole issue reveals what may be a fatal flaw in the legislation. I've written before about some weird clauses in that bill, and have always suspected that there was a time bomb ticking inside there somewhere. Now we know what it is.
The bill ties the county's hands, and explicitly gives the landowners everything they could have dreamed of. There's pressure to use the site (it's the only one allowed by the bill, save for the garbage burner site), there's pressure to get it done in a hurry, there's the clause putting the team on the hook for the added expense. Land Partners II could have written this bill.
The budget given to the county was probably based on a previous 2005 sale agreement which had expired. That agreement had specified a price roughly in the range of what the county now has to spend. My guess is that the number was tweaked at the Legislature for inflation, but assumed the landowners had named their price and would stick to it. That also assumed that Land Partners II would negotiate in good faith.
Setting aside all of the rhetoric in the paper (Sid's bluster isn't really helping), it's clear that the landowners are no longer negotiating in good faith. In fact, if this house of cards falls, Land Owners II will go down in history as the villain -- not the county, or the Ballpark Authority, or the city, or the Legislature, or the governor, or even the Pohlads.
I think the team has approached this site in good faith, as has the county. But I think the landowners have not. There are apparently 100 investors in this partnership, and it's time for the light of day to shine on these people. I'm sure that's the last thing they want, but it may come to that.
What's most insane about this is that they own a whole bunch of land around there which will become instantly more valuable because it sits so close to the new park (see the map above). They will make out like bandits even if the county is able to enforce the currently assessed price through eminent domain. The level of greed on display here is staggering.
People have been asking me if I think this issue will scuttle the whole project. I'm inclined to say that it won't, primarily because there is a fine solution available if only cooler heads would prevail. If you know someone who has ownership in this partnership, now's the time to give them a call. Some of the names are very well known. That type of pressure could be useful.
Beyond that, I suspect the county has some maneuvers available which can expedite the condemnation and let the project get started with only a six or nine month delay. That's totally bearable. Even a whole year delay wouldn't be all bad (though the Twins will have to get another extension on Mauer's contract).
One final note: I've always thought that the Rapid Park site would be a great place for a ballpark. But it's hardly the only place available, and it might not even be the very best place. Some of the limitations of the site have become visible now that design and engineering work has actually begun. Without any effort, I can think of half a dozen other sites which would be equally as good -- or better. The county may well have the ability to get a technical change to the law passed which changes the site. Certainly, some legislators would try to block it, but it might not be as hard as you think. For one thing, the tax is already in place, and nothing about the funding mechanism would have to change. That's always been the most controversial aspect of the whole project (lack of roof notwithstanding).
In other words, I do not believe it is a foregone conclusion that the park will go on the Rapid Park site regardless of cost. If that's what Land Partners II is banking on, they are making a huge mistake. It's time for them to negotiate in good faith and get this mess behind us.
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3037 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
The right field overhang is in place, and the first base stands are starting to go in.
Mound from the other side
The french fry lights were on!
Click to enlarge greatly.
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
An alternate route into downtown. (Click to get an interactive map.)
From the revised site plan, this is the configuration of Gate 34 Puckett.
Reverse view, now looking down Sixth toward the park. The Met Stadium flag pole will be right there!
A scene repeated about a million times each game
Secret entrance exposed!
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
Glare from the IDS never looked this sweet. (Photo by Jared Wieseler)
Bag checking at Ball Park Lanes was incredibly simple, as was the pick up later. The line was short and fast-moving.
This is the HERC Premonade with railroad tracks snaking beneath. (I think this should be named the Halsey Hall Premonade. Seriously.)
Here's a closer look at the bullpen area. It's hard to tell for sure, but I think there is still an opening to the concourse right above.
This is the upper deck in Anaheim
The same section seen from Target Center. Yep, looks like bridge supports.
The green is a composite of the topmost seating areas in the new ballpark. The gray is a scale diagram of the Metrodome.
Night (about the 7th inning)
I meant to include this shot the other day. It's the new LRT bridge being built next to the remaining half of the Fifth Street bridge. The new half is almost TWICE the width of the portion torn down. And the other end runs right into a HERC administration building! (Click to see the view from nearly the same spot about 85 years ago.)
These outfield stands will likely remain visible to passersby.
Detail showing clubhouse and home dugout (click to see the entire drawing)
Rich Pogin (left) and Bruce Lambrecht (Source: Skyway News)
Emergency access viewed in context
Viewed from up Sixth Street, the tip of the canopy looks like the claw of some gigantic crustacean!
Very interesting detail starting to appear here.
Here's the field of posts which will support the third base side of the grandstand. Some walls have started to appear about where the Northstar riders will enter the park.
Ballpark elevation viewed from Seventh Street. (Click to enlarge.)
Shh. Don't tell those people working behind the ticket windows about these automated ticketing machines (underneath the plaza stairs)