Hennepin County makes its move on Twins stadium landby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
There's a lot to do before ground can be broken at the site of the new Twins Ballpark in downtown Minneapolis. Hennepin County officials say some of the preliminary work around the site is moving quickly and on schedule. But the county could run into a snag as it tries to acquire the land where the stadium will sit. The county is still negotiating with four major landowners - and may turn to its power of eminent domain to get the land if talks stall.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The site where the new Twins ballpark will eventually sit looks like an asphalt lake full of automobiles. But as Ballpark Authority Executive Director Dan Kenney walks among the cars and trucks, he can visualize where is seat would be in this spot four years from now.
"This is the first base line, we're probably in the upper deck at this point. The lower deck is a little farther in front of us, but this is the vantage point that you would have," he says.
Though the ballpark has not been designed yet, Kenney says it will likely include a large scoreboard in center-right field. The downtown skyline will tower over the scoreboard and fill the gaps between the outfield stands.
The 42,000 seat ballpark must be shoe-horned into a roughly eight-acre footprint. Kenney says that's plenty of land.
"They've mapped it pretty closely. The Twins, the baseball operations side has looked at it, how far and how deep down the lines, in the power alleys. And they're very comfortable with the field dimensions they can create," he says.
Kenney says the compactness of the ballpark will make for a more intimate spectator experience.
"You'll be right on top of the field. It will be less than 50 feet from home plate to the first seat. Which is very close. Which is exciting."
But before any of this can become reality, the county needs to acquire the land. Under the terms of the ballpark funding plan, the county is authorized to spend $92 million for land acquisition and infrastructure costs. County staff are negotiating with four major landowners: Burlington Northern Railroad, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the City of Minneapolis and Land Partners II, which owns the surface parking lot. Land Partners is working in partnership with the Houston-based real estate giant Hines.
Marcia Wilda, the county's manager of leasing and land management, says in some cases the county will seek a lease agreement for use of the land. Wilda says the county is seeking an "encroachment easement" with Burlington Northern because the county needs permission to build the part of the stadium that will hang over the train tracks.
Wilda says if the county and other parties cannot agree on a price for the land, the county may exercise its power of eminent domain. The process allows a governmental body to take ownership of property, while a court decides how much it's worth.
"Negotiation is intended to be the preferred method for acquiring property. As a precaution, based on the very tight time schedule that the legislature set forth. We do expect to be filing for condemnation this week," she says.
Wilda says that doesn't mean the county will use eminent domain. But in order stay on schedule, the land needs to be acquired by March of next year so site preparation can begin. Wilda says a landowner can challenge eminent domain and though she says such a challenge would likely be unsuccessful, it could cause a delay.
"It's difficult to know how long that would take. Whether that would be a short delay or a long delay. Certainly that's part of the negotiations that we will be having with them outside of the condemnation process. And that's why our whole focus is on trying to negotiate rather than using condemnation."
County officials say other pre-groundbreaking tasks, like the Environmental Impact Statement, is on schedule to be delivered to the county board next June. On Monday night future visitors to the ballpark will have a chance to offer their suggestions about creating pedestrian-friendly access to the stadium. Members of the ballpark design advisory group will listen to public input at the new Central Library in downtown Minneapolis.
- All Things Considered, 10/23/2006, 5:19 p.m.