Ballpark deal finally done

Print

The cost of ballpark land, a number under negotiation for the past year, has been settled through a private mediation process. The land cost is $28,250,000 — plus the interest accrued during condemnation proceedings, which takes the price up to $28.9 million.

Along with the cash, the landowners are receiving rights to access “Dock Street,” a service road parallel to 3rd Avenue that will be used for deliveries to the ballpark. Hines Interests, the company that has an option on the ballpark site, has proposed to redevelop the land along Dock Street.

Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat said the county decided to settle to avoid the cost of going to trial in November. A condemnation panel awarded the landowners $23.8 million in August, and the landowners appealed the award in late September. During court hearings, the county argued that fair market value was between $13.75 and $17 million. The landowners’ attorney asked for an award of $65 million.

“We knew they had at least three attorneys on the other side, and they are each billing by the hour, so the attorney fees [were] a real exposure for us and we thought it was best to get some certainty and move on,” Opat said.

He said the owner of the Minnesota Twins agreed long ago to pitch in $15 million to help the county buy the land and pay for infrastructure costs. In exchange, the Twins were granted a parcel of land south of the ballpark that was originally slated to go to the landowners.

Aron Kahn, a spokesman for the landowners, said they are relieved the condemnation case is over.

“They take pride in the reality that, after the Twins’ 11-year, unsuccessful search for a new home, this band of property owners, mostly average Minnesotans, came up with the vision that worked,” Kahn said in a statement.

Ballpark Authority Executive Director Dan Kenney said it is too soon to tell how the final land cost will impact district improvements and public art around the ballpark. He said staff are trying to decide how much to draw down about $4 million in contingency funds in the infrastructure budget.

He said design elements previously unveiled in the immediate ballpark perimeter are still in the budget.

“The question is how much bigger or smaller [are] other district improvements based on this number, and how much public art can be added to what we’ve already seen based on this settlement number,” Kenney said.