More on the Stadium Boondoggle
From City Pages:
Even Mike Opat, the Hennepin County commissioner who has been the main architect of the ballpark plan for two years, admits that things are messy. "The metaphor I can come up with is that there's a swan swimming on the surface, silent, not making a wake, but there's a whole lot of paddling beneath the surface," Opat says, pointing out "complicated" negotiations with the county and the team, the Ballpark Authority and the team, and the like. "But all negotiations, with the exception of Land Partners, have been productive."
To further muck up matters, the ballpark bill explicitly says that the county can't spend more than $90 million for land acquisition, site remediation, and infrastructure. Though he refuses to break down the various costs, Opat says it's vital that the county avoid overpaying for the land. "And if we can't get a price that's acceptable to the county," Opat concludes, "we might have to walk away."
According to my source, the problem with the schedule is not really the county's concern. The county is on the hook to purchase the land and infrastructure. Cost overruns on the ballpark itself are the Twins responsibility. The county (and Mike Opat especially) is taking a lot of heat over this project, so it is crucial that they do everything in their power to make sure the "public experience" at the ballpark is as top notch as possible. The county will not sacrifice the public experience (i.e. infrastructure) in order to satisfy the demands of a couple of land owners. For that they should be commended.
So, the county currently has two options: they can either wait until Land Partners II negotiates in good faith (Randy Johnson said yesterday that LPII has not even made a counter offer) or they can look for a new site. From what I understand, right now they are leaning towards a new site.
To reiterate the stance of Land Partners II, in 2004 the county and LPII agreed on a sale price of the land ($12.95 million) and a land swap. In other words, money and land was to change hands. Today, the county wants to purchase the land for $13.5 million with no land swap. LPII would rather go through a condemnation process than agree to what they feel is a "lowball" offer. Hennepin County does not want to go through the condemnation process because they are capped at $90 million for land purchase and infrastructure. If the condemnation process decides on a land value of more than $13.5 million then some infrastructure will suffer and the "public experience" along with it (and quite frankly the political careers of people close to the project may suffer too).
Those political careers deserve to suffer.
Strib covers it here. This was funny:
Moving to another parcel of land would force the county and the Twins to return to the Legislature, where approval last year was conditioned on the stadium being built on the so-called Rapid Park site. Rep. Brad Finstad, R-New Ulm, the chief House author of the stadium bill, said Thursday he would "have a hard time seeing any appetite for this again."We gave them everything that they asked for," said Finstad, who said he was assured that the stadium, including the land purchase, would proceed as planned. "For them to essentially screw this up at this point -- and I'm not blaming anybody -- it's going to lie on their shoulders."
This issue was used against Finstad in his last campaign for reelection. He's not too happy about the angry letters from Hennepin County residents about his role in increasing Hennepin County taxes.