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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Eminent Domain to be Used for Stadium Boondoggle


With the start of the construction season fast approaching, the push to begin building a stadium for the Minnesota Twins now heads into the courtroom.

Hennepin County's move to condemn land for the 40,000-seat stadium in downtown Minneapolis will go before a judge today for the first time. With preliminary work to begin in mid-March, and with the stadium projected to open in three years, the county has asked to be given title to the land as early as Jan. 30.

The owners of the land west of the Target Center where the open-air stadium would be built -- a limited liability partnership with more than 100 investors -- has rejected the county's initial offer, and both sides appear to be tens of millions of dollars apart on a sales price. Although there has been some progress toward an agreement over the past two weeks, what happens next -- and whether it delays, or even jeopardizes the already-controversial $522 million stadium -- is drawing much interest.

The Legislature limited so-called infrastructure spending for the stadium to $90 million, which includes not only land purchases, but also roads, soil remediation and related projects.

The spending cap, according to county officials, limits how much money the county has to buy the land and still do the other work necessary to build the stadium. It has also set off speculation whether the Twins, who have committed $130 million to build the ballpark, will be forced to help with the land purchase.

Why can't they just pay for the whole stadium?

Since November, when the county filed its condemnation notice, each side has been granted motions for new judges.

For the county, proceeding with condemnation raises other problems. Although it would quickly gain title to the property and could begin building the stadium, the county would not know until later how much it would have to pay for the land. That would leave the county unsure how much would be left for other stadium infrastructure costs. A negotiated sale, without condemnation, would enable to county to know its financial exposure before work began.

"We don't like that option -- the option of leaving to chance the land price," said County Commissioner Mike Opat.

Opat was the lead negotiator for the County Board on the stadium deal.

This is getting more and more 4 stooge like by the day.