The dispute between Hennepin County and the land owners over the price of the eight-acre property where the new Twins ballpark will reside came to an end on Monday. The county announced that the two sides had agreed to a sale price of $28.25 million. The deal, which was reached Friday evening after two weeks of mediated discussions with a retired county judge, brought an end to a lengthy battle between the two sides. "It's done. It's over," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in his announcement at a morning news conference.
And for the Twins, it means that now all focus can turn to finishing the ballpark in time for the start of the 2010 season. "This is definitely a relief, as it takes all doubt away from the project," said Kevin Smith, the Twins' executive director of public affairs. "This has always been a situation between the county and the landowners. We, as an organization, kind of stepped away from it and let them work it out while we concentrated on designing and building the ballpark. "But this was kind of a speed bump. Now we're over the speed bump, and the way has been paved for an exciting ride to 2010." The two sides had been trying to reach a settlement since the county acquired the property by condemning it last year. A Hennepin County appraiser had valued the land at $17.2 million, a price deemed too low by the groups representing the nearly 100 landowners, who then appealed the decision. In August, a condemnation panel set the value of the land at $23.8 million. But Land Partners II, one of the groups which represented the landowners, filed an appeal which asked for $65 million. A mediator was then brought in to meet with both sides as an attempt to avoid a November trial. The parties were able to settle on the current amount, which, with interest, will reach $28.9 million, said Aron Kahn, the spokesman for the landowners. As part of the deal, Twins owner Carl Pohlad received the right to develop a couple of acres of land on the south side of the ballpark that Smith said will be used for parking. Pohlad will have the development rights to that land for 15 years. In addition, the landowners will get access to the property and air rights over Dock Street, located on the north side of the project. County commissioner Mike Opat also announced Monday that Pohlad will put forth an additional $15 million to the project. Pohlad's total contribution now stands at $145 million, or 27 percent, of the $522 million cost for building the new ballpark. The additional funds will not be used for the change in land price but for other costs involved in the project.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.