Have We Got a Deal for You!

Trevor Collis

It has been more than five years since the Minnesota Twins first made noise about how they'd really like to get out of the Metrodome and play in their own new, publicly financed baseball stadium. Every idea and scheme they've proposed so far has failed miserably with the public and state lawmakers. Which is not to say they've given up: Minnesotans for Major League Baseball, a citizens' advisory panel funded by the team, is expected to deliver its recommendations on the stadium issue next month.

Meanwhile, New Ballpark Inc., a group of local business types teamed with its own citizens' panel, has been strategizing since late summer about how to build an outdoor ballpark downtown. They floated a few ideas last week, chief among them an "embryonic" finance plan that would construct a stadium with funding from the Twins, a private developer, and, possibly, investors who purchase preferred stock in the project. Another component of the scheme would call for the City of Minneapolis to "trade" a parcel of its own land to a private developer in exchange for the developer's contribution.

All of this got us thinking. And City Pages is pleased to announce that--without the input of a single citizen, baseball Hall of Famer, or local business leader--we've carefully assembled not one, but ten exciting proposals for constructing a new outdoor ballpark in or near downtown Minneapolis.

Throughout the process we were guided by a simple philosophy: "There is no idea too dumb to air publicly."

1. City of Minneapolis uses power of eminent domain to halt construction on Block E and condemn redevelopment project. (Given the areas the city has successfully deemed "blighted" in the past, this construction site should present no problem.) City then turns over land to stadium developer for innovative, low-cost, one-square-block "sandlot"-style park.

2. Private developer proposes expansion to the Minneapolis Convention Center: a new, retractable-roof baseball stadium attached to the convention center. (Think of it as a really big meeting room or banquet hall.) Air-hangar approach to architecture keeps costs low. Because the stadium will be connected to the convention center, it can be paid for out of city's existing half-cent sales tax.

3. New owner recasts the Minneapolis Armory as the nation's first indoor combined baseball/football/golf dome facility. (On off days the structure doubles as parking garage to boost revenue.) Development proposals also allow room to house potential new Air Hockey League. Metrodome reopens as world's largest Old Country Buffet.

4. Private stadium developer gets special two-for-one--or "double play"--development deal to build new baseball stadium and new central library. Note: This does not preclude the possibility of constructing a combination library/ballpark.

5. Hotel/skating-rink developer CSM Corp. scraps skating rink at renovated Milwaukee Depot and builds ballpark on site instead.

6. Private stadium developer forms corporation, Ballparc Shares Inc. and takes company--which has no assets or sales--public. Initial shares sell for $10 a pop. New stadium to be constructed after 40 million shares are sold.

7. All of northeast Minneapolis is declared a tax-increment financing (TIF) district. TIF designation helps bankroll new stadium, built around the site of the former Grain Belt Brewery. (Note synergy of historic brewery and baseball!)

8. Build new dual-use baseball/XFL football stadium. Construction partially funded by future revenues of Gov. Jesse Ventura's broadcasting fees, book royalties, etc. In order to lend credibility to new league, Vikings leave NFL and join XFL in exchange for a healthy chunk of league TV and marketing revenues.

9. Federal Reserve Bank (a.k.a. Marquette Plaza) redeveloper FRM Associates changes course, announces plans for second downtown Target store with adjoining stadium, funded in part by sales at the store.

10. Move Shubert Theater to the Downtown East light-rail transit stop block and redevelop as townhomes/retail/office. In exchange, the Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA) gains option on the land where the Shubert once stood, which it in turn swaps with the Guthrie Theater for an option on part of the Guthrie's new site on the Mississippi riverfront. The Guthrie builds informational kiosk/street-theater outpost along Hennepin Avenue, trades riverfront site to private stadium developer, and acquires land near the downtown garbage incinerator. The Star Tribune donates five downtown blocks for new stadium site in exchange for naming rights and 100-year agreement that no other media will be allowed to cover events at the new stadium. Newspaper builds new ten-story underground headquarters directly beneath new ballpark.

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