A baseball park in the Minneapolis Warehouse District would provide powerful
leverage for redevelopment just beyond the district's boundary, Mayor R.T. Rybak
told the Hennepin County Board on Thursday.
His pitch to build support for keeping the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis was
made while team officials were focused on private talks with state officials.
The talks were aimed at exploring financing options to meet a growing demand at
the Capitol for a 50-50, public-private deal to build a $330 million stadium.
Progress stalled this week in the House-Senate stadium conference committee,
which didn't meet. Instead, the Twins met privately Monday with conferees and
later this week with state Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock, Twins President
Jerry Bell said.
The private talks have been aimed at overcoming language in the House bill
that requires the Twins to make a $165 million down payment.
Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, cochairman of the conference committee, said
Thursday in an interview that the emphasis has been taken away from a lump-sum
financing plan. The Legislature could grant flexibility as long as $165 million
is assured from private sources in some fashion, he said. The other half of the
stadium's cost would be funded by an increase in local sales taxes in the new
stadium's host community, but only if approved by voter referendum.
"We could pass a bill like that," Johnson said.
The Twins' Bell said Thursday he will continue discussions with Wheelock. If
the conference committee meets next week, Bell said he expects to present a
A lot of people "are thinking right now how to make it work," Bell
St. Paul and Brooklyn Park are the other two municipalities vying to land the
County Board Chairman Mike Opat introduced Rybak by acknowledging the
uncertainty of the overall stadium debate.
"This is all if the team is around and the team continues to exist as we
know it," Opat said.
Rybak said the city has no specific stadium-related projects on the drawing
board. But two sizable triangles of real estate now dominated by nondescript
commercial buildings could give way to a mix of housing, retail, office and
industrial space if a new ballpark goes up between Target Center and the
Hennepin County garbage incinerator.
The city's 10-to 30-year vision, Rybak said, is for development to flow from
the edge of downtown, where the ballpark would sit, into a mixed-income housing
project already going up on the city's Near North Side.
"This is one of the best opportunities we see of expanding the tax base
of Hennepin County," Rybak said.
The mayor was particularly enthused about a large wedge of land that includes
the Minneapolis Farmers Market, which could be expanded and surrounded with
housing. Within that area, the city already owns some property, Rybak said.
Russ Adams, director of the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, an
environmental and social-justice organization in Minneapolis, said the very idea
of building a new ballpark is debatable. But if one is going to be built, he
said, it should be located intelligently "so that it builds
The Metrodome never delivered on a similar promise of spinoff development.
Adams said it would be a huge missed opportunity if development extending the
Warehouse District didn't include some public housing and moderate-income