Comments from Friends of the Riverfront

Minneapolis, Minn., Oct. 16, 2007 – DeLaSalle High School’s plan for a football stadium on Nicollet Island is stymied, stalled and stuck, saddled with a land-use contract that’s null and void, a series of hang-ups at City Hall, and three unresolved court cases. Yet rather than rethink, DeLaSalle has opted to put on a ceremonial ground-breaking today at 2 p.m. DeLaSalle’s golden shovels can turn over dirt for the cameras but they can’t cover up these facts:

A voided contract is all that’s left after the Minnesota Department of Finance told the Minneapolis Park Board last month that its deal with DeLaSalle fails to meet state standards for use of public land.

Three lawsuits challenging the stadium are pending at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, with a ruling on the first case due by Dec. 18. In view of looming court decisions, the Park Board demanded DeLaSalle post a $250,000 bond before beginning construction they might have to undo.

DeLaSalle has yet to get a single construction permit due to unresolved issues at City Hall. The city wants to know if DeLaSalle actually controls land it uses for parking, whether DeLaSalle plans on artificial turf or grass, and how much archaeology work is included in DeLaSalle’s plan to dig a football field six feet down in a national historic district.

Using eminent domain to force a taxpaying business to move from land at the proposed stadium site cost $1.1 million in state bond funds in 1986, equal to $2 million in today’s dollars. “As such, we need to conform to the requirements of the Finance department,” Minneapolis Parks General Manager Don Siggelkow told park commissioners in a Sept. 21 memo, “and the Commissioner of Finance must approve the [contract].” Contrary to a promise in that contract that DeLaSalle would pay to replace the land, the Park Board and Metropolitan Council struck a back-room deal relieving the private school of its obligation.

How did a plan this flawed get this far? DeLaSalle enjoys close ties with many who wield power in local government: Minneapolis Park Board President Jon Olson is a recent DeLaSalle parent. Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson was until July a DeLaSalle trustee. Minneapolis City Attorney Jay Heffern is a DeLaSalle trustee and graduate, as is Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commissioner Michael Rainville. Minneapolis Park Board Attorney Brian Rice and Metropolitan Council Member Roger Scherer are DeLaSalle graduates.

Friends of the Riverfront is a nonprofit citizens group that works to preserve natural and historic resources in Central Minneapolis Riverfront Regional Park.