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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Don't Let the Door Hit You in the A**

Patrick Reusse Opines on the Hennepin County Twins Debacle

Patrick Reusse: Maybe Twins ought to ditch stadium plan

Bruce Lambrecht was the co-founder of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. Among the ideas that he opposed vociferously was the creation of a train line, the North Star Line, from St. Cloud to downtown Minneapolis.

Then, Lambrecht discovered that the train would run through land that he owned with others on the northern edge of downtown Minneapolis.

Uff-da! Lambrecht had an epiphany and started attending pro-North Star meetings and showing his support.

Officials of the Twins and Hennepin County now have been reminded what can happen when you wiggle into a sleeping bag with a hypocrite.

Lambrecht, historically a large contributor to Republican causes, was a self-anointed lobbyist for a Twins stadium in the 2006 legislative session. In the final hours, permission finally was granted to Hennepin County to impose a .15 sales tax as the main funding piece for a new ballpark.

This was a huge victory for Lambrecht, since the legislative action specifically stated the stadium would be built on a small hunk of land behind the Target Center parking ramps owned by Changeable Bruce and his partners.

There were handshakes all around among Lambrecht, Twins officials and the four Hennepin County commissioners who had put their necks on the chopping block to get this done.

And now the Lambrecht group -- rather than accept a payment close to the current assessed value of $13.35 million -- has decided that it's worth a little more than that. The land owners have gone so far as to mention numbers north of $50 million for this few acres that rest in the shadows of the garbage burner.

"That's a lot of money for a ditch," said a local politician requesting anonymity for his quip.

The Twins and Hennepin County did Lambrecht's group the favor of endorsing a site-specific bill. It has seized that clause to demand an outrageous sum.

Here's the solution: The Twins call Lambrecht and give him a deadline -- say Valentine's Day -- to accept a reasonable county figure ($15 million) or the team will bail on the entire deal.

When Jerry Bell, then the team president, started working on this a decade ago, the goals were a stadium with a retractable roof and a prime location on the river.

The Guthrie got the river. The roof was lost in negotiations with the county. The desperate Twins took what they could get: a cramped outdoor ballpark located not along the Father of Waters but in Bruce's Ditch.

It doesn't have to be this way. The Twins can give Lambrecht and the Hennepin County negotiators until Wednesday to be shot with Cupid arrows, or then announce:

"We're going to call Anoka County and find out if that $280 million it had waiting for the Vikings is still there. Then, we're going back to the legislature and get permission to make a deal for a ballpark in big, roomy Blaine."

Just think: Space for a roof and a 6,000-car parking lot that would bring $7-8 million to the Twins' coffers, all for under $500 million.

The Pohlad family's current commitment is $100 million for an uncovered mini-park. Wouldn't it be worth twice that much to the Pohlads -- and $100 million more in future sale price -- to get everything they once dreamed of in a ballpark?

Anoka County had a 6-1 voting advantage with its commissioners when it came to imposing a .75 sales tax to attract the Vikings. Steve Novak, the county's coordinator for stadiums, said that pro-stadium advantage is now closer to "4 ½ to 2 ½."

He also was quick to mention that Anoka County wasn't interested in doing anything to mess with Hennepin County's deal with the Twins.

"Obviously, the Twins would have to initiate any conversation," Novak said. "I do like those guys. The Twins have a classy organization. If something happens with the current deal and they wanted to talk, we would love to be a partner.

"Eighty-one games. It would be great. There are a lot of good baseball fans up here in Anoka County."

This wouldn't be problem for Lambrecht and his partners, of course. They could proceed unencumbered with the ambitious plans they have for the area surrounding Bruce's Ditch.

They simply would require one minor alteration: Changing the development's name from Twinsville to Garbageburnerville.

'Anoka County Twins' has a wonderful ring to it.


Avidor said...

It's interesting that Lambrecht was against Northstar before he was for Northstar.

For laffs, watch the animation of the Northstar Twinsville station:

It's also funny that Reusse calls Lambrecht a "hypocrit" for flip-flopping on rail transit... the Strib was opposed to LRT long before they were for it.

Markh said...

I'm surprised the Strib would publish a column that doesn't regurgitate the McLatchy credo on the Twins scam.

I guess that's Sid Hartman's role.