Next stop for Twins ballpark: Fantasyland!

Categories: Twins

For all the acrimony and greed clouding the stalled land acquisition for the new Twins ballpark (see "Squeeze Play," CP 02/07/2007), one major point seems to be lost while everyone waits for eminent domain proceedings to run their course: Namely, that as the clock ticks, the stadium costs creep upward on what is now almost a daily basis.

This was evident at the February 16 Ballpark Authority Meeting. Dan Mehls, a representative for Mortenson Construction, the general contractor for the project, laid out the price of any delays: "One week would costs thousands of dollars, and one month would cost tens of thousands of dollars." He hastened to add that the money would come from the capped $90 million Hennepin County has to spend on acquisition and site prep.

But it's also true that any delays would drive up stadium construction costs, which are what the Twins are ponying up for—and the team is also responsible for any cost overruns, which are now likely. For instance, the price for the entire project jumped some $45 million from $478 million in early 2005 to a projected $522 million a year ago.

So why wouldn't the Twins get involved now, bridge the gap between what the county wants to spend on land and what the landowners want, and no doubt save themselves some tens of millions in the long run?

You're allowed to laugh, given that the team is owned by Carl Pohlad, perhaps the cheapest billionaire on planet Earth. But the question was posed to David St. Peter, Twins president, at the Ballpark Authority meeting anyway. "If you could guarantee me that the county and the landowners are $5 million apart, we might seriously look at that," St. Peter said, "But I read in your paper that the gap is much larger than that." (Actually, neither side has indicated how far apart they are.)

It was a semi-stunning concession from a guy representing the most penny-pinching team in all of professional sports, but when pressed further, St. Peter conjured up the ghost—oh, wait, he's not dead yet. Or rather the spirit of ol' Skinflint Carl. "It's a matter of risk assessment. We're going to spend every dollar we have for this project because we need a ballpark to be a competitive franchise," St. Peter offered. "But the notion that the team would bail out the county or the land owners at this point, that's just fantasy land."

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