County votes to use eminent domain to acquire stadium land: KARE-TV11, Minneapolis MN, 4/11/07

By Janel Klein

Construction on the new Twins ballpark could begin in early May after the Hennepin County board voted Tuesday to take the land where the stadium will be built through eminent domain.

Under the process approved on a 4 to 2 vote, the site's purchase price will be worked out later. Negotiations over the price had stalled the project, putting the new ballpark's planned 2010 opening date in danger.

Plans for the stadium will be unveiled Thursday, said Twins spokesman Kevin Smith. The team still expects to play in the stadium in 2010.

"That is not up in the air. We're still on schedule to do that," he said.

He said early work clearing the site could begin within a few weeks, and that pile driving for the stadium could begin by mid- to late summer.

Even after Tuesday's vote, the county will still have to work with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad to move nearby tracks. Smith said negotiations over that issue were continuing on Tuesday.

Landowners have claimed the 8-acre site was worth more than the $13.35 million the county has said it is willing to pay. To settle on a price, a three-person court panel is expected to hear arguments next month and issue a decision in June, said developer Rich Pogin of Landowners II, the group that owns the site. Either side can appeal the panel's decision, and a price would then be decided after a jury trial, he said.

Pogin said the agreement with the county over how to hand over the land is a major step forward, but the process isn't over yet.

"Anything this complex things can tip over for a whole variety of reasons," he said. "I would say from a Twins fan's standpoint, it's a significant step, but there's more to be done."

Hennepin County taxpayers are paying an estimated three quarters of the cost of the new $522 million stadium. The money is coming from an additional 0.15 percent sales tax, or 3 cents on a $20 purchase.

KARE-TV11, Minneapolis MN: http://www.kare11.com