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Minneapolis draft report favors stadium in Warehouse District
by Rochelle Olson

The best site for a new Minnesota Twins stadium would be northwest of the Target Center on land that could accommodate 42,000 seats and allow for a retractable roof, according to a draft report from several Minneapolis agencies.

The complete report is to be presented Monday to the City Council's Community Development Committee. But a draft obtained by the Star Tribune on Friday details the site's attributes and recommends it for in-depth analysis.

Surface parking now covers the majority of the 10.3-acre tract, which lies between the Target Center and Hennepin County's garbage incinerator and N. 5th and N. 7th streets in downtown Minneapolis.

The preliminary findings note that the site already has significant infrastructure and would require minimal road realignment.

It adds that the site offers synergy with the Target Center and the entertainment-focused Warehouse District and has excellent transit prospects, with light-rail and commuter-rail proposed to run nearby. Demolition costs would be minimal, and no significant environmental issues are evident.

Also, one party -- Investment Management Inc. -- owns the site and is willing to sell. Bruce Lambrecht, the company's president, repeatedly has spoken at stadium forums about the site's benefits.

How it came about

The report was prepared by an advisory committee of officials from the Minneapolis Community Development Agency and the city's planning, public works and finance departments. The group began working after the council accepted a separate report from a citizens' panel charged with determining whether the city should pursue a privately funded ballpark.

The citizens' panel encouraged the council to work with New Ballpark Inc., a group led by Wells Fargo executive Jim Campbell and U.S. Bancorp Chairman John Murphy that believes a stadium effort must be driven by private money, rather than the pursuit of public subsidies.

City Council Member Paul Ostrow had yet to see the draft report, but he has been closely involved in the effort. He would like the council to formally endorse the effort and begin focusing on a site.

"I think part of what we'll talk about [Monday] is what's the next step for the [advisory] committee, how do we get moving on the design process and how do we engage the Twins," Ostrow said Friday.

Separate efforts

For the most part, this effort has moved independently of the team, which is pursuing funding through a bill at the Legislature. That $300 million proposal includes a $100 million, interest-free loan from the state. It received its first hearing in a Senate committee on Thursday.

The city's draft report tracks with what the citizens' advisory panel recommended, including the requirement that Major League Baseball implement financial reforms such as revenue sharing between larger-and smaller-market teams.

Community Development Committee Chairman Jim Niland has been the council's most fervent opponent of public financing for a ballpark. He hadn't seen the draft report Friday but said he was nervous.

"I continue to worry that we're on the slippery slope to not just one but two bailouts for billionaires, given the Vikings and Twins bills [at the Legislature]," Niland said.