Kenney emphasizes that he remains "enthusiastic and optimistic" about the process. But it's worth noting that Kenney, who has a long history in city planning, was Opat's assistant before the Ballpark Authority was created. "What I'm seeing is a number of city and community reps going, 'How does this fit?'" he says. "They're going to drill down to the last detail."

This appeared to be true at a meeting of yet another government entity, something called the Ballpark Implementation Committee, on January 24. There, Earl Santee, a senior principal at HOK Sport, stood for questioning before a number of City Council and county board members. The St. Louis-based HOK is the lead architecture firm on the project, and has worked on 14 professional ballparks, including Camden Yards in Baltimore, AT&T Park in San Francisco, and Petco Park in San Diego, as well as the Xcel Energy Center arena. (HGA, a local firm, is also involved in the stadium design.)

City and county leaders peppered Santee with all sorts of questions, ranging from the location of box office windows, whether there will be 40,000 seats or 38,000, what the view will be like from the public plaza that's closing Third Avenue North, and whether there would be "visual connections" to the city from within the park. At one point, Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein offered, "You must have dealt with all of this kind of stuff when you were doing Petco Park."

Santee paused. "Actually," he said, "this is tougher. I've said it before—this is one of the toughest sites we've ever worked on." He then went on to cite a number of transportation and energy issues. "That's what makes this project so special. These challenges will make it special to the community."

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