Summer Smells (of Rats)
July 6, 2007 12:20 AM
So, here we are, deep in our summer yawn. The days seem positively fluid -- made of a liquid that evaporates just as you start to get the flavor.
Have the boys really played 84 games? The All-Star Game is really next week? Only 171 shopping days until Christmas? Can it be?
(Updated on July 7 to add some links.)
I took some time tonight and drove down to the construction site. First Avenue was hopping (the street AND the club). In fact, the downtown side of Target Center was just crawling with tank tops and tattoos. It was really possible to imagine this life oozing around Footstool and over Freeway.
Life in the shadows
There was some life to be found on the back side of the arena, albeit not the type you really want to find. The dark alcoves on Target Center's west side held some surprises for the casual pedestrian. I'm sure the quickening of my step was easily perceptible to those who eyed me from the deep shadows. I stuck with the skyway for the return trip.
At the site, it looks like much dirt has been moved, though much of the activity has happened where the parking lot will be. The actual playing field area is still mostly asphalt. Third Avenue is pretty much gone, as is the hill which separated it from the parking lot.
Over on Fifth Street, a new abutment is about to be built which allows the railroad tracks to be relocated. Then work on splitting the rest of the bridge will get underway.
The elevators in the parking ramps have little updates on construction which are pretty succinct in summarizing what's going on. You can also read these online at ABC-Ramps.com.
Looking up Seventh Street (click to see what it looked like from the same spot in 1950)
If you've been following the coverage of the condemnation hearings, you know that there is a very interesting deal in place between Land Partners II and the developer Hines Interests that was struck just after the ink dried on the legislation which created this project.
News reports say that LPII is guaranteed $25 million from Hines, regardless of what amount the county actually pays. In other words, the county really isn't buying the land from LPII at all -- but from Hines. This explains a whole lot.
Just ask yourself a few questions:
1. Why would LPII enter such a deal?
Basically, it looks like they are going to be splitting the proceeds from the land sale with someone else. Why would they do that? Without Hines, all of the proceeds from the sale would go to LPII. With Hines, LPII gets $25 million plus 77.5% (corrected, per the Strib) of anything over that amount. They are sure to get less than the full amount if it comes in over $25 million, but more than the full amount if it comes in less than $25 million.
So, by entering this deal, they've created a safe floor for their investors, reducing their risk while also partially cashing in if the ceiling turns out to be in the stratosphere.
2. Why would Hines enter such a deal?
They have no interest in developing the land. In fact, they will never touch the land at all. But they will make money if the final amount is over that $25 million. And the farther over, the more they make. Ah, the pieces are starting to fall into place.
3. What does Hines have that LPII doesn't have?
Expertise at maximizing land value in condemnation proceedings, and a ton of expensive lawyers.
So, maybe I'm the last one in town to figure this out, but what's essentially going on here is that LPII has hired Hines Interests to shake down the county for as much money as they can get. It explains why the land deal couldn't happen earlier, and why the asking price is so high.
Hines Interests is speculating here, and they may be doing it with Hennepin County taxpayer money (the county is on the hook for Hines's legal fees if the final amount is more than 40% greater than the county's initial offer). LPII, for their part, can pretty much sit back and watch how it turns out -- which is exactly what they've done since signing with Hines.
Despite what LPII's mouth-pieces claim, the revelation of this deal explains -- and is darn near proof -- that LPII did no negotiating with the county and never intended to. They hired Hines for one reason and one reason only: to get the most money possible out of the condemnation proceedings. They may be a bunch of billionaires or little old ladies (or both), but that's pretty sleazy if you ask me.
Oh, I almost forgot, that's how you get to be a billionaire...
I've written here many times that you can't fault LPII for trying to get top dollar for their land -- and I truly believe this. It's the American way. But I'll be frank and tell you that I think this technique stinks. It's the very definition of "negotiating" in bad faith. And it's quite possible that the county had no idea something like this might be in the works -- or just chose not to believe it was a possibility -- because LPII played the part of eager sellers for so long. The county may have seemed hapless, but now I believe they probably were intentionally duped.
Well, you live and learn. Actually, this City Pages article from 2005 seems to indicate that this all could have been predicted. Clearly, government entities are nowhere near as nimble or savvy or cold as Big Money. This much, at least, is not a surprise.
A final question: Why should we care?
Well, it's pretty academic from a ballpark fan's perspective. The park will get built, and it'll probably be spectacular. The infrastructure limit in the law is a complication, and the Twins certainly have placed some sort of limit on how much they'll pay for the overage. But there will have to be sidewalks.
The plaza could be in jeopardy, as could the pedestrian bridge over I-394. Losing either of these would be a shame, but not fatal.
I did a little digging in the project budget, and discovered that the Ballpark Authority currently expects land acquisition to cost $23 million. I would love to see this amount stick -- and thereby stick it to Hines.
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This page was last modified on January 21, 2010.
"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 3046 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
This guy at the Puckett atrium chef stand caught me taking the picture and said I should stop back later because he was "just getting started." I still don't know what he meant.
Let's be honest and say that this promenade, which will face the HERC plant, won't be the most exciting part of the streetscape. It has to be provided for circulation reasons, but there won't be much to see unless vendors and other attractions take root here.
Infield dirt used as accents
Lots of self-portraits were taken here after the final out.
Comerica Park main entrance: Tigers, bats, and much (maybe too much) more (Source: LP)
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
This is what I was working on while my photo was taken (click to see a VERY BIG version).
Yes, TC is smiling.
Would you have spotted that Twin? When you were five years old?
One more exterior view shows that, while the original look was attractive in a way, it seems to be a variation on the look of the Washington ballpark (albeit with a much more coherent collection of elements). What's remarkable is that the design team has refined the concept amazingly well, improving it immeasurably. What we're actually getting is clearly descended from this, but it's in a whole different league:
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
The entrances are all the way around on the other side.
LRT at the ballpark
Gate 29 "Carew" is at right.
Opening Day 2008 (By Currier & Ives)
A glimpse of the rather plain west facade (the side which faces the HERC plant).
This is the last hope for so-called knot-hole views. I'm skeptical.
The walkway under construction in the parking lot just outside the loading dock.
It looks like the Target-themed signage has spilled out to the surrounding area (this was taken from the entryway to the B ramp from Third -- the 394 entrance ramp tunnel)
Stairs and escalator down to the platform
I have no idea what this is or does, but as gear goes, it's totally boss, man. (Attached to a railing just off of the Trap)
Even today, throw a fastball to that guy at your own risk.
We took refuge for a time in the Twins Pub where you can drink a beer (or just hang out) and listen to some ballpark tunes. The organ is decorated with a TC (of course) and what looked like drawings which Sue has received from kids.
What can you see from up there? Some say not much.
BPM - Ballpark Magic
BRT - Bus Rapid Transit
DSP - Dave St. Peter
FSE - Full Season Equivalent
FYS - Fake Yankee Stadium (see also: NYS)
HERC - Hennepin Energy Resource Company (aka the Garbage Burner)
HPB - Home Plate Box
HRP - Home Run Porch
LC - Legends Club
LRT - Light Rail Transit
MBA - Minnesota Ballpark Authority (will own Target Field)
MOA - Mall of America
MSFC - Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (owns the Metrodome)
NYS - New Yankee Stadium
SRO - Standing Room Only
STH - Season Ticket Holder
TCFBS - TCF Bank Stadium
TF - Target Field
Selected Bibliography - Analysis
First Edition (1992)
Second Edition (2006)
Selected Bibliography - Surveys
Second Edition (1987)
Not a "Third Edition" exactly,
but it replaced the above title
(2000, large coffee table)
Original edition (2000, round)
Revised edition (2006, round)
(2001, medium coffee table)
(2002, small coffee table)
(2003, medium coffee table)
(2004, very large coffee table)
(2006, very large coffee table)
Combines the previous two titles
(2007, medium coffee table)
Selected Bibliography - Nostalgia
Book and six ballpark miniatures