Ballpark authority begins workby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
The Minnesota Ballpark Authority met for the first time Friday afternoon. The five-member public body will oversee construction of the Twins new outdoor stadium scheduled to be built in downtown Minneapolis, and will own it. Ground won't be broken on the ballpark until next year, however the authority will still have much to do in the meantime.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The first meeting of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority was held in the offices of a related body, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns and operates the Metrodome. On the agenda was a series of procedural matters.
The group voted to approve its by-laws and it named four members as officers. Former Minneapolis city councilmember Joan Campbell will be the group's secretary. Mike Vekich, former chair of the MNSCU board of trustees will be the vice chair. John Wade, president of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce will be authority treasurer.
The fifth member of the authority, retiring Rep. Barb Sykora, R-Excelsior, was present, but didn't vote. Sykora helped craft the final ballpark legislation during the last session. However, she says she's still technically a member of the House, and so voluntarily recused herself from voting.
"I wanted to be here because I think we're going to work this thing out. So I wanted to be here so I can learn everything that I need to know," Sykora said.
The ballpark authority also approved a number of resolutions that authorized the body to accept money from Hennepin County, to begin the process of looking for an executive director and other staff.
The authority and its members will be subject to the same laws as elected officials. They have to properly give notice of their meetings, and members have to abide by the gift ban laws.
The members of the authority were also briefed by representatives from the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and the Minnesota Twins about which responsibilities lie with whom.
Hennepin County is in charge of conducting the Environmental Impact Statement and levying the tax to pay for the majority of the construction cost. County budget and finance director Dave Lawless says the county is also responsible for acquiring additional land around the stadium site.
"Related to that area are some lands that we are going to have acquire from MnDOT. There's a small piece of the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority. City of Minneapolis owns a small parcel," says Lawless. "In addition to that, we will need air rights over I-394 and we will need air rights over Burlington Northern tracks."
One of the main responsibilities for the Minnesota Twins is developing the design of the new ballpark. Twins president Dave St. Peter says he just got back from a trip visiting other stadiums to get some ideas.
"We have been, and will continue to be, tireless in our efforts to look at features of the best ballparks in America. Everything from Fenway Park and Wrigley Field to Jacobs Field in Cleveland," said St. Peter. "Just yesterday we had the privilege of touring as a team, Busch Stadium in St. Louis. And I cannot tell you how exciting it is to walk into an open-air ballpark."
St. Peter says the main design feature of the stadium will be a view of the downtown Minneapolis skyline. He says the team is also getting design suggestions from fans. One fan said he wanted to see a statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox behind the centerfield fence.
The ballpark is scheduled to be open for the 2010 season.