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 3033 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
The official ballpark development area
Here's the Northstar platform.
The HERC promenade side.
Suite level view
"I've never seen them do that before," said a Metropolitan Club waiter as I snapped this picture.
Detail of view to the northeast (Source: LP)
Don Swanson, left, in-coming commander of the Richfield American Legion, and Joe Kennedy, right, out-going commander, are pictured with the Legion's new flag pole, which once stood at old Metropolitan Stadium. (Click to enlarge.)
Looking down what was Third Avenue, and will be a freeway entrance ramp beneath the outfield stands.
Touring the Rapid Park site (L-R: Commissioners Wade, Vekich, Sykora, Cramer, and tour guide Chuck Ballentine, source: RP)
These stairs will go up to the centerfield pavilion.
Ballpark magic: Infield materializes (click to enlarge)
The limestone theme is apparently carried to the area behind home plate. This will look great -- and distinctive -- on TV. But watch out for those foul balls!
This is as close as I could get to a pedestrian-eye view of the main entrance. This is what you'll see as you enter by coming down Sixth Street.
Best view available from the "B" ramp.
Noah is checking out the ample leg room and truly exemplary sight lines.
Two concepts here remain in the final design. First is the oddly-shaped pavilion in center. Second is the section just above the right field fence. In the current design this section will hang over the field by a few feet. The original doesn't do that, but you can see that the concept goes way back in the planning.
This is where the plaza meets First Avenue
Note the gigantic -- and very permanent -- M's on the gates at the base of these stairs.
If you want, you can ask those folks how the game is going -- and even get a little bit of info from the big screen (Grandstand)
Photo by Jeff Ewer
A closer look at the bridge and walls. You can see where the tracks will be laid.
Glass going in over the Oliva gate.
A new address for the Admin building
B ramp improvements are finally becoming usable. The doors lead to the plaza beneath the skyway steps.
Packed SRO beneath the notch.
Spring of 1982 (click to enlarge greatly -- can you pick out Kent Hrbek?)
The future history of Minnesota ballparks will go here