MINNEAPOLIS - There is a problem with one piece of land in the middle of the new Vikings Stadium project. However, it is not expected to hold up the construction schedule.
The "Plaza" area on the outside of the Metrodome is the space where purple and white tents welcome game day fans to pre-game festivities. The problem is: the area, between 4th and 5th streets and between Kirby Puckett Place and Park Avenue South, is not owned by either the Vikings, nor the Minneapolis Sports Facilities Authority.
The owner is developer Minneapolis Venture, LLC. The company bought the property in 2007. However, there has been a use agreement allowing the team and the authority to use the plaza since 2003. Now, that agreement is expiring on October 31, 2013.
Unless, some agreement is reached, pre-game activities at the Plaza for November, December and the Playoffs (if needed) might be stopped, but that is not the only fly in the ointment for Authority officials.
"They (Venture) have said they are terminating the agreement which would terminate it, not only for this football season, but would extend to the new stadium, " said Michele Kelm-Helgen, Chair of the Minneapolis Sports Facilities Authority. "We would not have access to that Plaza."
The Metro Transit has a separate agreement for the light rail station which runs diagonally across the property and is used heavily by fans on game days.
Another issue is the underground parking garage at the site. The 450-plus vehicle stalls are the closest public parking to the dome and the new Vikings stadium. The Authority is to provide more than 2,000 spaces within a short distance from the new stadium. Kelm-Helgen said she is convinced the Authority can find other spaces close by, if necessary.
"Clearly those spots would be useful, but I would not say they are crucial to our development," said Kelm-Helgen.
The key to the dispute is control, if not ownership, of the plaza property. "I think there is a common misperception," said Jon Austin, Minneapolis Venture Spokesperson, that the Vikings or the Authority own the property.
"We believe we have rights to the property like anybody, any property owner, a person who owns a house," said Austin. "The Vikings and the Sports Facility Authority seem to believe otherwise. They seem to believe they have some claim on our property that does not exist."
"Our position is we have never said we own the land," said Kelm-Helgen, "but, we have said it is something that we are considering as part of our public infrastructure plaza area."
On Tuesday, Minneapolis Venture sued the Authority in Hennepin County Court seeking a legal determination of who has rights to use of the plaza property.
"Frankly, we regret we have to take up the court's time with this," said Austin, "but really, we felt like we were out of options for anything else."
Kelm-Helgen said the Authority is not opposed to having the court's determination. "We think it is probably good to have the court actually look at the use agreement to make a decision as to sort of who has rights as it relates to use of the plaza. We certainly disagree with their (Minneapolis Venture's) interpretation."
Both sides said they have been in talks about the Authority buying the property from Minneapolis Venture. "We are happy to have an arm's length fair negotiation on that and try to come to an agreed upon price," said Austin.
"We have looked at potentially acquiring that property," said Kelm-Helgen. "We have been far off on price in terms of what our appraisal has been and what they have been wanting, what they considered the value to be. So, we have talking with them, negotiating with them, but we were certainly not very close on price."
Another option would be taking the property by "eminent domain." Minneapolis Venture's Austin did not oppose that.
"If they want to take the property by eminent domain, there is a process for that and let's get to it," said Austin.
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