With Hennepin County commissioners unable to negotiate a price with landowners on the selected site for the new ballpark behind Target Center, Twins officials have gotten involved for the first time in trying to solve the problem by holding discussions with both sides to try to settle on a sale price.
The commissioners have been at a stalemate with the landowners and have refused to go along with a plan in which the price of the land would be determined under future condemnation and would allow the project to go ahead.
There was danger of the ballpark not being built until Twins officials got involved. And there is the possibility of the park not being ready for the 2010 season unless work starts in the near future.
Jerry Bell -- president of Twins Sports, Inc., and who represents the Twins in stadium negotiations -- admitted that "we have had talks."
However, Bell said he can't say anything more about the conversations he's held with the county and the landowners.
At this point, no progress has been made. The consensus among those close to the negotiations is that the Twins, who already have committed $100 million to the cost of building the ballpark, might have to contribute to buying the land to ensure the ballpark will be built.
Vikings make cap room
After some restructuring to free more money under the salary cap -- including the release of quarterback Brad Johnson -- the Vikings are now $30 million under the $109 million salary cap and rank with the top five in the league in that situation, according to Rob Brzezinski, Vikings vice president of football operations.
Owner/President Mark Wilf made it clear Wednesday that his family is determined to put a winning team on the field and will spend the money necessary to do that.
"We have complete confidence in our football experts, and we are ready to spend what they believe is sensible in the acquisitions of free agents who can help the team," Wilf said.
A year ago, before the 2006 season started, the Vikings signed free agents Steve Hutchinson, Chester Taylor, Ryan Longwell, Ben Leber and Tank Williams. They spent close to $94 million.
The caliber of free agents available this year might not be in the class of a year ago. However, Wilf said he will give the football people what they need to field a winner.
Interest in Spaeth
Former Gophers tight end Matt Spaeth, who attended the NFL combine in Indianapolis, said although he couldn't work out, everything went well with the doctors who checked his surgically repaired shoulder and he had interviews with the Bills, Bears, Bengals, Chiefs, Redskins and Jaguars. The Vikings already know a lot about Spaeth, who said he had a limited conversation with an assistant coach at the combine.
Spaeth said the Gophers' pro workout day is Monday, but he won't be able to take part. He hopes to do so before the NFL draft.
"I felt everything went really good, all the medical stuff checked out, my shoulder checked out good, the interviews went good," said Spaeth. He said he believed he could hold his own with any tight end he saw at the combine.
Gophers spring football practice opens today. One player who won't be able to take part for a while will be tackle Steve Shidell, who had foot surgery after the season and had the cast taken off Wednesday. ... Among the junior college players in school who will be able to participate in spring ball will be wide receiver Marc Cheatham from Laney (Calif.) College, defensive back Durrell Clark-Jones from City College of San Francisco, defensive linemen Serge Elizee from College of the Sequoias (Calif.) and linebacker Eric Small from Joilet (Ill.) Junior College.