Monthly Archives: October 2006

Star Tribune: Suit seeks end to DeLaSalle stadium plan

In her October 25 story, Joy Powell of the Star Tribune writes:

The fight over whether DeLaSalle High School should be allowed to build an athletic stadium on Nicollet Island went into overtime Wednesday as opponents filed a lawsuit.

The long-simmering issue pits the interests of those who want to keep the Nicollet Island parks and neighborhoods the way they’ve long been against those who want to build a 750-person-capacity stadium on park land adjacent to the school near downtown Minneapolis.

The stadium would be located on and across the eastern half of historic Grove Street and on regional open-space parkland on the island, in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District.

Read entire story at the Star Tribune website.

Read the Plaintiff’s news release and a copy of the complaint at this link.

More information about Friends of the Riverfront, one of the Plaintiffs.

Lawsuit Challenges DeLaSalle Stadium

Minneapolis, Minn., Oct. 25, 2006 – Friends of the Riverfront filed an action today in Hennepin County District Court asserting that the proposed DeLaSalle High School stadium on Nicollet Island destroys a historic place in violation of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA). The suit, filed on behalf of the State of Minnesota, asks the court to prohibit construction of the stadium as proposed and require the City of Minneapolis and DeLaSalle to comply with state law mandating full exploration of all alternatives.

“The community deserves a fair, public process that considers alternatives that do not destroy historic areas of the city,” said Judith Martin, former City Planning Commission president and vice president of Friends of the Riverfront.

As proposed, the development would destroy a portion of historic Grove Street so the private, religious school could build a stadium – with lights, loudspeakers and a surface parking lot – on nearly three acres of public land in a national historic district. Before any development that destroys historic resources may proceed, MERA requires the developer to show that no “feasible and prudent” alternative exists, and the courts have strictly interpreted this requirement. Alternatives to the current plan that would avoid destruction of historic resources remain unexplored.

“Historic areas that the community values, like Nicollet Island, are protected by MERA, the state law requiring alternatives to be examined,” said Bonnie McDonald, executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. Nicollet Island – a tranquil spot near downtown Minneapolis where visitors stroll brick streets to view the Mississippi River and a neighborhood including Grove Street that dates from the 1860s – is part of the nationally-designated St. Anthony Falls Historic District.

The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission rejected the assertion that no reasonable alternative exists and unanimously opposed DeLaSalle’s stadium plan. But the Minneapolis City Council – led by Council President Barbara Johnson, who is also on DeLaSalle’s Board of Trustees – granted DeLaSalle’s appeal without a full review of alternatives. That left litigation as the only recourse to compel the City of Minneapolis and DeLaSalle to comply with MERA’s requirement to explore options.

Explorations of alternatives can result in win-win solutions. In the 1990s, after the Minnesota Supreme Court found there were alternatives to destroying the historic Minneapolis Armory, Hennepin County constructed its new jail on another site nearby. With its legal action, Friends of the Riverfront – a citizens group that works to conserve, protect and enhance the resources of the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park – seeks a similar outcome for DeLaSalle and Nicollet Island.

More information about Friend of the Riverfront, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

(See attached Adobe Acrobat PDF document for a copy of the legal complaint.)



Park staff will be conducting a Study Session on Wednesday, October 25 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Minnehaha Training Room for the purpose of addressing 2007 Budget Issues.

Date: 10/25/2006
Time: 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Type: Public Meeting
Location: MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255
Address: 2117 West River Road

Why should the taxpayers be expected to give DeLaSalle yet another football field?

Minneapolis Park Watch wants to know: Why should the taxpayers be expected to give DeLaSalle yet another football field?

Over the past 50 years, DeLaSalle High School, a private non-profit corporation, made choices to construct building additions and parking on its athletic fields. In 1971, Nicollet Island was designated a part of the National Historic District. In 1982, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board MPRB adopted a Central Riverfront Regional Park plan that governed the creation of Nicollet Island Park as it is today. In 1996 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board adopted a Master Plan for the Island. None of the approved plans contemplated more playing fields – all focus on preservation, conservation and stewardship.

Brief History of DeLaSalle Land Use


DeLaSalle Institute opened on Nicollet Island.

DeLaSalle built a new school building on West Island Avenue

The City of Minneapolis granted DeLaSalle’s request to vacate an alley so DeLaSalle could build a football field. This allowed DeLaSalle to demolish part of the Eastman Flats rowhouses, evicting 300 low-income people in the process, and DeLaSalle built a football field on this land. DeLaSalle used this as a home football field.

DeLaSalle replaced the on-campus Christian Brothers residence with a new building.

DeLaSalle expanded to south Minneapolis, opening a second campus at 43rd Street and Wentworth Avenue.

The City of Minneapolis granted DeLaSalle’s request to vacate a block of Eastman Avenue. DeLaSalle built a school addition facing Eastman on part of its athletic field. Tennis courts, later demolished, were built in front of the new addition. DeLaSalle closed the Wentworth Avenue campus.

Congress added Nicollet Island, as part of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board developed the Central Riverfront Regional Park Plan. Except for DeLaSalle High School and the property adjacent to the school owned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the land on Nicollet Island was designated as “open space” and therefore, eligible for inclusion in the Regional Park. The Park Board stated a goal of obtaining a less than fee interest in the DeLaSalle and Archdiocese property. A high school football field/stadium was not included in the Plan which was approved by the Park Board and Metropolitan Council in 1983.

The Park Board and the City (MCDA) signed the Nicollet Island Agreement. The Park Board pledged to use its “best efforts” to include an “outdoor neighborhood recreational facility” consisting of a football field and two tennis courts on property adjacent to DeLaSalle. The Park Board agreed to maintain the streets on Nicollet Island as parkways.

DeLaSalle requested and received a 24-foot by 480-foot encroachment along Grove Street from the City of Minneapolis so the high school could build a football field. This is the regulation-size football field on the DeLaSalle campus today.

The Minneapolis Park Board bought a parcel of land, the former Twin City Tile and Marble site, across the street from DeLaSalle using a grant from the Metropolitan Council. The Metropolitan Council required a covenant on the property that prohibits using the land as an athletic field.

Nicollet Island became part of the federal Mississippi National Riverfront and Recreation Area (MNRRA) administered by the National Park Service.

The Park Board and MCDA were required to have completed, per their best efforts, the work outlined in the 1983 Nicollet Island agreement.

The Park Board published the Nicollet Island Master Plan which does not include a football field/stadium for neighborhood or high school use. DeLaSalle Development Director Thomas Johnson represented DeLaSalle the advisory committee that created this plan. Grove Street was paved in a brick pattern approved by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission. The Nicollet Island East Bank Association contributed NRP dollars to this expensive project.

Time expired for any legal challenge to the 1983 Nicollet Island Agreement. Neither the neighborhood nor DeLaSalle took any action on the “neighborhood athletic facility” mentioned in the 1983 agreement.

DeLaSalle requested and the Park Board agreed to build three tennis courts on parkland across Grove Street from the DeLaSalle campus. No signs were installed to indicate the courts were open to the public.

DeLaSalle and the Park Board signed a reciprocal use agreement that provided 1) DeLaSalle has a blanket permit (priority use) for conducting classes, practices, and matches at the Nicollet Island tennis courts and 2) the Park Board may hold up to six meetings a year at DeLaSalle, and may use the DeLaSalle parking lot on the 4th of July, New Years Eve, and when the parking is not needed by DeLaSalle. No signs were installed indicating when the parking was available to the public.

DeLaSalle built a new school addition in the rear on its athletic field.

DeLaSalle upgraded its football field including installation of a new field sprinkler system.

DeLaSalle proposed to build a high school football/soccer stadium including concession stand, press box, and 70-foot tall field lights on its athletic field, one block of Grove Street, and a parkland parcel across the street from the DeLaSalle campus. This parcel is the former Twin City Tile and Marble site.

The City of Minneapolis Planning Department prepared an an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for DeLaSalle’s proposed Athletic Facility. The City Council accepted the EAW and determined that an Environmental Impact Statement would not be required on the project.

The Park Board approved a reciprocal use agreement with DeLaSalle that provides 1) DeLaSalle may build an Athletic Facility partly on parkland, 2) DeLaSalle and the Park Board will each have 112 days a year to either use or rent out (permit) the facility, and 3) the new facility will be closed to public use except by permit and when under the supervision of DeLaSalle or Park Board staff. The length of the agreement is 30 years, renewable up to 70 years.

The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny DeLaSalle’s request to demolish Grove Street between East Island Avenue and Nicollet Street and construct the proposed Athletic Facility. That decision is on appeal.

De_Land_Use_History2 090506.doc

Oct. 18th MPRB meeting CANCELLED

The MPRB has cancelled this Wednesday’s Board meeting. It seems that they will not have a quorum. Many of the commissioners and staff are attending the National Recreation and Parks Association Conference in Seattle, WA. There is suppose to be an additional study session about the 2007 budget on Wednesday Oct. 25th. The study session prior to the Oct. 4th meeting covered very little so hopefully more information will be forthcoming. I have yet to hear any mention of what they are planning on doing to solve the underfunding of their workman’s comp plan. It seems based on the claims currently pending that they could be millions short.

Crown Hydro…. Round 2

During the 10-4-2006 meeting of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board ( MPRB ) Commissioner Scott Vreeland added the Crown Hydro Project to the agenda under new business. His question to the board and staff was where is the project on the MPRB radar. Here is where things get interesting. Staff reported that they had received the results of the soil borings done by Crown Hydro on MPRB property north of their previously desired location. Commissioner Vreeland pressed on to ask if there was a new proposal in the works. At this point President Olson invites Bill Hawks ( of Crown Hydro ) to the microphone. In reply to a commissioner request Mr. Hawks states that there is a new proposal for the project. Superintendent Gurban jumps in to make it clear that they have not received any “official communications” other than the results from the soil borings. Mr. Hawks then asks how to present the current proposal ( seems odd that since this is round two they are not in the know) and is directed to staff. At this point Commissioner Young asks what the results of the soil tests were as she agreed to the tests to discover if there is significant pollution to be concerned about. Again, Superintendent Gurban insists there is no “official proposal” and then goes on to say that the test results can be discussed at an upcoming meeting. Since most of the senior staff and many commissioners will be at the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) convention in Seattle, WA the next board meeting is not until November. Hopefully the new proposal will be available to all at that time.

2005 MPRB Financial Report Available

The highlight of the September 20, 2006, Park Board meeting was the releasing to the public of the Park Board’s 86 page 2005 Financial Report. I obtained my copy at the meeting. I suggest that anyone who wants to know more about the Park Board’s finances get a copy. I’m not sure where the report is being distributed, but further information should be available by calling the Park Board at 612-230-6400. Also, I believe that a reference copy should be available at the Minneapolis Public Library’s downtown location.

Helpful tip: Anyone reading the report should know that the Moore Building (p.52) is the old outdated name for the Park Board’s headquarters’ building. Also, Athletic Field Facilities (p.50) is referring to the Neiman Sports Complex.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch