Twins want more amenities, and will foot the bill

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 12, 2008 - 11:57 PM

One cloud on the horizon is the stadium's infrastructure, which is expected to cost an additional $17 million because of problems with things like utilities and a parking lot.

The price of the new Twins ballpark is going up.

On Tuesday, Twins President Jerry Bell told the Hennepin County Board that the team will cover $22.4 million in upgrades to the stadium plans.

They include a high-definition scoreboard and a soffit to cover the exposed beams of the canopy that hangs over the infield. And then there's Mankato limestone for the stadium's skin, additional restrooms, more concession stands and something you're unlikely to see in a ballpark outside Minnesota: three-sided shelters where fans can go to warm up on chilly game days.

"We felt it was important to make these improvements now," Bell said. "We'll never be able to go back."

The budget changes, which will be voted on by the county board on Feb. 26, increase the stadium construction budget from $390 million to $412.4 million.

The county's share of the costs is not changing.

While stadium amenities are increasing, the amount the project had budgeted for the neighborhood surrounding the stadium is dropping, however.

Rick Johnson, the county's stadium project coordinator, said stadium infrastructure is costing $17 million more than expected because of problem soils, complicated utility relocations, a parking lot change and a plan to make the ballpark's 6th Street plaza and bridge about a block longer than planned.

To help fill that cost gap, $12 million that had been designated for improvements to the surrounding neighborhood will be shifted to infrastructure.

Johnson told the board that there were no definite plans about what those neighborhood improvements would be or how big an area they would cover.

With most of the more unpredictable parts of stadium construction nearing completion, he said, he hopes that project contingency funds of roughly $5.5 million eventually can be redirected to the area around the ballpark. A consulting firm has been hired to help figure out which streets might get help, and what kind of improvements could be made.

"I know some neighbors will be a little disappointed, but [the county's infrastructure share of] $90 million only goes so far," said Commissioner Mike Opat. He said he hopes the city and neighboring property owners step in to help improve the area around the stadium.

Plans now call for the 6th Street plaza, a major entrance to the stadium that originally ended at 2nd Avenue, to end in a ramp at 1st Avenue. Target Center would have to agree to that design change.

Bell said adding a soffit to the ballpark canopy will hide steel beams that likely will rust and could provide a home for armies of pigeons that would roost directly over spectators' heads.

The team wanted more women's restrooms and concession stands, and a high-definition scoreboard that will measure 102 feet long and 57 feet high.

The three-sided warming shelters -- there would be about 10 of them -- would be roughly 43 feet long and 30 feet deep and have snack bars. And instead of using precast stone, the team will cover about 100,000 square feet of the stadium's exterior with natural yellow Mankato limestone.

The changes bring the Twins' contribution to the entire project, including infrastructure, to $167.4 million. The county's overall share remains at $350 million.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380

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