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Park Board may punt the Yard back to city

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: August 1, 2014 - 7:10 PM

Months after a lawsuit foisted the proposed downtown park into the hands of the Park Board, the body is preparing to say it wants nothing to do with the development.

A resolution to be debated by the Park Board next week says "the Yard" adjoining the new Vikings stadium is not suitable for their oversight because of its cost and the extent to which it will be occupied by the Vikings and the sports facilities authority. 

An agreement signed in February limits public use of the space, giving the team and the authority control for up to 80 days in a typical year.

"The ... agreement with the Vikings and the MSFA really limits what we as the Park Board would be able to do," Park Board president Liz Wielinski said in an interview. "We wouldn’t be able to do our normal programming."

Additionally, Wielinski said they anticipate that the full build-out of the park could cost up to $20 million. And one of the major funding sources for that -- air rights above a nearby parking ramp -- is in jeopardy after plans fell through to build a hotel. That's on top of operations and maintanence, which the Park Board expects could cost between $2 million and $3 million a year.

“When the air rights deal fell apart, it made everybody even more cautious about getting into something that could be very expensive," Wielinski said.

The city's independent Park Board was brought into the City Hall-led project when a district judge ruled that they had jurisdiction over city parks. Some had then advocated the Park Board owning the land and leasing out operations and maintenance to a non-profit conservancy.

Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the area, said the resolution adds support for the conservancy idea, though he was not sure who precisely would own the land.

“This is the best result really for all parties involved," Frey said. "This is not the Park Board’s general bailiwick. This gives us the opportunity to have an entity that is ensuring that the space is properly utilized and maximizes public access.”

Perhaps a more pressing concern, however, is finding the money to build the park. Frey said it is expected to be built in two phases: a basic park to coincide with the completion of surrounding developments, and a more complex park to be built after that.

“We need to be raising capital for the final vision up front, now," Frey said, adding he does not know what the cost of the the final product will be.

"We already have the capital to put together your basic grass and dirt facility. We're there," Frey said. "But I certainly don't want to settle for mediocre."

The Park Board will debate the resolution at their meeting on Wednesday. Wielinski said several commissioners are leery about the future of the park, though she is aware of one that would like the Park Board to retain control.

Park Board Resolution

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