Every political science program in Minnesota should require a lesson on how the new park in Downtown East (they're calling it "The Commons" now) became such an epic clusterfuck.
The latest development came Wednesday, when a Park Board committee approved a measure that would give it ownership of the park, but absolve it of any real responsibilities for the next 30 to 50 years.
When it became clear that the Vikings, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, and potentially a future MLS team will have the right to control the park for up to 118 days out of the year, the Park Board said "no thanks" and walked away from the project in August.
Now it's being dragged back in because of a pesky clause in the City Charter that requires the Park Board to own all public parks in city. With that kind of leverage it worked out what could end up being a pretty nice deal:
"We would be the underlying land owner, but the operator, which would be the city in this case, would be responsible for all expenses: to build it, maintain it, operate it, indemnify it in case something bad happened on the property, they would have all financial responsibility," said Park Board President Liz Wielinski, talking about the new deal.
The rights the Vikings and MSFA have over the land last 30 years with an option to extend for another 20 years. Under the new agreement, after those rights expire the Park Board could swoop in and operate the park as it sees fit.
The Downtown Council is in the process of setting up a conservancy that would operate the park for the city when the space isn't covered in Vikings party tents.
"For all we know in a few decades there could be a successful, fabulous conservancy established and then we'd be happy to let them keep going," said Wielinksi.
The new agreement passed committee on a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Brad Bourn abstaining. Bourn couldn't be reached for comment yesterday. It will go before the full board December 17.
"We're not 100 percent comfortable, but we're trying to work this out. We realize we now have a lot of constituents downtown we need to serve and there needs to be some more parkland down there," said Wielinski.