Stalled Ballpark Talks Center on Parking Ramps

Sun March 25, 2007 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The key to a stalled Minnesota Twins ballpark plan could be a parking ramp for players, coaches and upscale ticketholders, according to Hennepin County officials and the owners of the land where the stadium would be built.

A dispute over the sale price for the site has threatened to derail construction of the 40,000-seat ballpark, which is set to open in 2010. But on Mar. 7, county officials and landowners indicated that they were pursuing creative ways to reach an agreement on the 8-acre (3.2 ha) site in downtown Minneapolis, though details of the ramp proposals remain sketchy.

“It’s a factor,” James Ufer, a former county budget official now helping the county negotiate a land sale agreement, said of the parking ramp. “But I can’t comment in detail on it.”

Commissioner Mike Opat, the lead stadium negotiator for the County Board, agreed that the ramp is part of the land sale negotiations but also declined to comment. He said, however, that new data have validated the county’s initial $13.35 million appraisal of the site.

Representatives of the landowners have said $13.35 million is substantially below the property’s real worth and have argued that the dispute be settled in court.

The ramp’s importance could come from granting development rights above it to the landowners, who could, for example, generate revenue by building condominiums atop the two-level ramp. Downtown Council President Sam Grabarski said including the ramp in a land agreement could provide Land Partners II and Hines Interests, the two companies that own and control the stadium site, with additional compensation to bridge the sale-price gap between the county and the landowners.

No deal appears imminent, but county officials were optimistic enough about the progress being made that they suggested that a land deal and other critical stadium agreements could come before the County Board as early as March 27.

The parking ramp site is significant because, under a since-expired agreement that Land Partners II had with Minneapolis officials, the landowners would have received $12.95 million for the stadium site and been given another parcel next to the stadium as additional compensation. That parcel is essentially the same site where the Twins parking ramp would be built.

For the first time in a month, a special ballpark committee that was created to help streamline the project’s many complexities met Mar. 7 to try to inject new momentum into the stalled project.

“The 2010 opening date is not in jeopardy at this point in time,” said Rick Johnson, the county’s ballpark project coordinator.

But many in the audience, including Johnson, acknowledged that little real movement toward building the stadium could be made until a land sale is complete. “Hopefully, we have a land deal,” said David Frank, a committee member, “otherwise we’re continuing to meet about not much.”

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