UPDATE - This article was written in an era when very little was known about the discussions Land Partners II had had with the city and the county. That's a nice way of saying that when I wrote this, I was an idiot.
Condemnation proceedings forced silence on some parties, so there was much that could not be revealed or discussed at all. And one side had exclusive access to the media mouthpieces, which affected how the whole thing was framed, and how people like me perceived it. There were -- how shall I put this? -- disgraceful shenanigans in progress which are obvious in retrospect.
I think that I've learned my lesson. And though I'm leaving the text of this post as it was originally, please be aware that what I THOUGHT was going on was very misguided. The real story is in my book. -- Rick, July 2014
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 3042 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
A classic profile on the horizon
The parking bay structure is now clearly visible
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
(Click to enlarge.)
The transit corner entrance (Photo by Tom Sweeney, Star Tribune)
Detail of Entry Plaza #4 (north entry from Fifth Street)
Working on the main concourse right about directly behind the plate.
Note that, even though the scoreboard appears strategically placed, it's the outfield stands which block any potential view of the field from this roof.
This is what I was working on while my photo was taken (click to see a VERY BIG version).
Standing, standing, standing.
Emergency access viewed in context
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
Fenway has posts. Target Field does not. But...
This looks from the base of the stairs, behind the big pillars, toward the street.
LRT station has appeared.
All three seating mounds
This is what it looked like during the first open house in March.
The Fifth Street side is pretty busy. There's a small street entrance to the B ramp, then ticket booths and an entrance gate, a rare exterior section not covered in limestone, the wooden screen covering the circulation ramps, the administration building, and finally (just out of view) the interface with Northstar. All of that sits behind the LRT action. How pedestrians will interact with this side of the park is a great mystery to me. You know that Metro Transit won't be letting them cross the tracks anywhere but at either end of the block...
Click to enlarge. (Photo by Jared Wieseler)
A view of construction from the B ramp. This looks toward Seventh Street, over what will be Gate 34 (the main entrance).
Gate 29 Carew
There are no caddies in baseball.
Looking up Sixth Street, now barricaded for plaza extension.
A recent view of the Bud deck in progress
The alumni band sounded great.
One of the many supports being built over the tracks.
TC caps everywhere! (Is that you?)
Legends Club seats feature in-seat service
Fencing is going up all along the plaza
Lots of work has gone into detailing the fronts of these decks. That is a little thing, but a NICE little thing. (HRP View)