Authority approves new stadium plans

Authority approves new stadium plans

MINNEAPOLIS -- With snow flurries outside, the return of outdoor summer baseball received warm blessings with two milestone votes by a key entity.

Amidst a number of accolades, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority approved the final design plans for the new Twins ballpark. The authority also authorized the final payment for the property.

"What we see here is what we'll get, an absolutely beautiful ballpark," Commissioner Michael Vekich said as he looked at a drawing provided by HOK Sport that showed the finished product, as if being looked at from a downtown skyscraper.

Added Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports, Inc., "Two years ago, who'd have thought we'd be in this position today? But we are."

The final land payment of nearly $14.5 million ends a saga that began last year when Hennepin County acquired the property through condemnation. Valued at $17.2 million by the county, the landowners, Land Partners II, LLLP, sought in excess of $50 million for the site.

Three months ago, a condemnation panel set the land value at $23.8 million. In an effort to stay out of the courts, a mediator worked out a $28.25 million agreement with both sides.

Mike Wekesser, a senior associate with HOK Sport, said the final design has a few minor changes from what has been previously shown.

For example, the club area above the batter's eye in center field is no longer an enclosed area, and will have 200-300 seats outside the club. Additionally, a standing area in right field will have seats, and the ticket office and pro shop have switched positions on the Seventh Street plaza area.

The changes have not added any cost, Wekesser said, and some may actually save a few dollars that can be used elsewhere.

"As far as the look and feel of the ballpark, we told the architects we didn't want a cookie-cutter," Bell said. "We're not Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, so we didn't want red brick and steel. It's been done successfully in a number of places, but it doesn't really fit in Minnesota, so we said we'd like to see a Minnesota design and a Minnesota ballpark. I think they did."

Between the foul poles, the exterior will feature stone indigenous to the state, and the large amount of glass represents the blue in the state's 10,000 lakes.

Other highlights, according to Wekesser, are front row upper deck outfield seats that are parallel with the wall, similar to Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and a canopy over the upper deck that is reminiscent of European stadiums. Within the canopy will be most stadium lights, meaning the only light tower will be above the scoreboard in left-center field.

Vekich praised ballpark designers for putting the 40,000-seat facility on such a small footprint, something that will keep fans close to the action.

"We're getting a very beautiful park to put on eight acres," he said.

"This is an exciting design," said Authority Chairman Steve Cramer. "Ten years from now, we'll see a lot of development around the park."

The ballpark still has a $390 million price tag, something that Bell believes should be sufficient.

"We think we know what's in the park, so we don't need to add anything," he said. "We're confident we can build this as drawn and, if not in the budget, we'll be pretty darn close." The team will cover any cost overruns.

After heavy October rains turned parts of the site into a muddy, pudding-like mess, construction is back on schedule.

"There is a battle for real estate down there now with so many cranes," Bell joked.

Mike Cook is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.