Twins officials said Tuesday that the team is ready to move forward with the new stadium in Minneapolis because it appears Hennepin County will be able to execute condemnation plans to acquire the ballpark site.
Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports Inc., appeared on Fox Sports Net and KSTP radio during Tuesday's Twins-Red Sox game in Fort Myers, Fla., to say the club will immediately begin seeking bids for excavation work at the site in downtown Minneapolis.
"We believe there's a process in place that will allow the condemnation process to move forward," Bell said after his TV and radio appearances. "To be honest, I would not be here [in Florida] if I wasn't comfortable that things are going well."
Bell added that the unveiling of designs for the $522 million, 40,000-seat ballpark, which was postponed in February because of a much-publicized impasse over the land sale, has been rescheduled for April 5.
But Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, the lead stadium negotiator for the county board, said late Tuesday that it would be premature to say a deal to move forward with the ballpark's construction had been reached.
"I'm more confident than I've been, but we're not done," Opat said, adding that negotiations were continuing.
The state's most populous county is levying a 0.15 percent countywide sales tax to help build the stadium. Hennepin County also is responsible for acquiring the stadium property near Target Center.
Land Partners II, a limited liability partnership, owns the land on which the stadium is to be built, and Texas-based Hines Interests has an option on the property.
Under condemnation proceedings, a government entity can take land for a public purpose provided it pays fair-market value.
If the condemnation process plays out, Bell said the price would be set by a three-person court panel. The decision can be appealed, but he said it would not delay plans further.
Bell would not say whether the Twins would make up the difference in what the county has offered to buy the land -- $13.35 million -- and the final price that would be determined through condemnation. "I'm not going to discuss that," he said.
Opat said there was no agreement between the county and the Twins over having the team assist financially with acquiring the stadium site. "We're not there yet," he said.
Opat said that he spoke to Bell earlier Tuesday, and that the team was eager to begin seeking bids for the preliminary site work. "I said [to Bell], 'Don't get too far out in front here,' " Opat said.
The stadium is scheduled to open in time for the 2010 season.
Land Partners II and Hennepin County have been at a stalemate for several months over the price of the land, which had threatened to delay construction of the ballpark. Because of the impasse, and the county's own financial constraints, the Twins entered into the land negotiations in recent weeks.