The ballpark’s schematic design is scheduled to be unveiled in early February, but the finished designs cannot come soon enough for members of the Ballpark Implementation Committee.
A tight timeline that puts the committee’s design approval at the end of February had some members asking how much influence the public will have over wheels that already seem to be in motion.
City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) asked a representative of the project architect last week whether the stadium would be modern in appearance or have a historical brick feel that reflects the Warehouse District.
“I don’t think we want it to stick out like a sore thumb,” Goodman said.
Bruce Miller of HOK Sports said the architects are considering lighter colors, but declined to go into detail while the design remained under development. At a Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association meeting last week, county ballpark planners said proposed project materials include Minnesota limestone, ironwork, glass walls and exposed structural steel.
Schematic designs may not arrive until next month, but public input will have a new channel starting Jan. 29, regarding the draft environmental impact statement to be posted on the Hennepin County website. In addition, the North Loop is hosting a neighborhood meeting to look at the ballpark site plan on Jan. 18; the Loring Park ballpark meeting is set for Jan. 22.
Other major decisions ahead, such as the method of rerouting local traffic around a closed portion of 3rd Avenue North between 5th and 7th streets, are complicated by land acquisition negotiations.
The $522 million stadium budget for ballpark infrastructure is capped at $90 million, so additional land acquisition expenses immediately cut into anything the county can spend on infrastructure improvements. A court hearing on the condemnation of the ballpark site is slated for Jan. 22. Ballpark planners hope to start site preparation work in mid-March.
Bill Blanski of HGA, the local architecture firm working on the ballpark, said one way to mitigate the closure of 3rd Avenue is to route local access onto I-394 with a new off-ramp exiting at Glenwood and Royalston avenues. Another possibility would reroute traffic along local streets, and another would convert 2nd Avenue North into a two-way street. The Access Minneapolis Project Steering Committee is already studying two-way traffic on Hennepin and 1st avenues. Rick Johnson, the county’s ballpark coordinator, said perhaps an additional two-way street could be an option, “as long as we’re thinking about that big picture.”
David Frank, a member of the Ballpark Implementation Committee and chair of the North Loop Neighborhood Association, said he would like to weigh the options for 3rd Avenue against other mitigation work that may be needed.
“There are those who would say that when we as a community chose this for the stadium site, it was more or less already known that 3rd would be closed,” Frank said, noting that others counter the street could remain open with enough money. “I believe that at every opportunity we should be making connections, not severing them, so this one is very tricky for me. ... The danger is to focus on this and come to a conclusion on this before we know what the rest of the things are that need to be mitigated.”
Ballpark planners said they have already addressed one concern about the pedestrian entrance to the ballpark at the Hiawatha platform. They said a ballpark wall adjacent to 5th Street is now pulled in by an additional 5 feet, allowing for a platform and sidewalk space extending a width of 27 feet.