City panel to review revised DeLaSalle stadium design

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March 19, 2007 // UPDATED 11:04 am - April 26, 2007
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch

DeLaSalle High School\'s contentious

case to build a stadium has a revised

design headed for city consideration this

week.

The redesigned bid to build a football

and soccer field behind the school on

Nicollet Island comes two weeks after a

Hennepin County District Court judge

dismissed a complaint against city agencies

and the Park Board, determining she

could not make a judgment on the same

issues under consideration in the Minnesota

Court of Appeals. A standing Court of

Appeals lawsuit filed by a local riverfront

organization challenges the City Council\'s

September ruling that the stadium would

not adversely impact Nicollet Island\'s historic

character.

The DeLaSalle stadium proposal has

inched ahead over the past two years.

The issue has generated fundraising for

legal action, a campaign urging Garrison

Keillor to remain neutral, and intense

debate by people who have become

scholars of the school and the island\'s

history.

On March 5, District Court Judge

Marilyn Brown Rosenbaum issued an

order deferring judgment on the DeLa-

Salle case to the Court of Appeals. She

dismissed a request for injunction and a

claim of breach of contract as

premature.

The judge also dismissed allegations

that Council President Barb Johnson

(4th Ward) has a conflict of interest

in her position as both council member

and trustee on DeLaSalle\'s board.

Johnson has no financial interest in the

DeLaSalle proposal, the judge stated,

and Johnson\'s interest in the project

does not merit disqualification under

state Supreme Court precedents that

consider the nature of the decision,

the financial interest, the number of

officials involved in the decision and

the opportunity for review. The separate

Court of Appeals case does not include

the alleged conflict of interest.

The city\'s public review continues on

March 20, when the new stadium design

goes before the Heritage Preservation

Commission (HPC). The HPC previously

denied a certificate of appropriateness to

build the stadium because of the loss of

Grove Street, the use of stucco, tall lighting

masts, and a retaining wall standing up to

nine feet.

Project architects said the new design

lowers the playing field three feet and

replaces portions of a retaining wall with

a landscaped bank. Brick pavers from

Grove Street are incorporated into an

area with a plaque devoted to the history

of the site.

\"Basically we\'re taking a bulky, tall, single

building and making it into three smaller,

low structures that also have the character

of a garden structure covered with vines,\"

said Tom Meyer of Meyer, Scherer and

Rockcastle.

The new design has not appeased all

critics of the project. Chris Steller, a member

of Friends of the Riverfront, said the

new design does not address the HPC\'s

main objections.

\"It still has 70-foot lights,\" Steller said.

\"They still reserve the right to put in artificial

turf.\"

The crux of the lawsuit against the city

and DeLaSalle High School - filed by

Friends of the Riverfront, Sidney and Lola

Berg, Grove Street Flats Association, the

National Trust for Historic Preservation

and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota

- says the city did not adequately

take into account alternative sites for the

stadium. The project\'s Environmental

Assessment Worksheet (EAW) references

prior work by a Park Board citizen advisory

committee that determined the site

behind the school was the best option.

Documentation in the EAW indicates

that DeLaSalle discarded the alternatives

because the other options did not

have sufficient infrastructure or were not

adjacent to the school.