Problems with DeLaSalle stadium agreement

Parks notebook originally published in the The Southwest Journal on November 5, 2007

By Mary O’Regan

DeLaSalle High School still faces several hurdles before construction can begin on its proposed athletic field on Nicollet Island.

The Park Board currently owns about half of the land where the stadium will go, having purchased it with a grant from state bond proceeds in the 1980s. Roughly two years ago, the MPRB entered into a Reciprocal-Use Agreement (RUA) with the school that must abide by state statutes because state money is involved. According to the state’s Assistant Commissioner of
Finance Peter Sausen, the current agreement doesn’t meet the necessary requirements.

“They have to make changes to the reciprocal use agreement and come back to us which they have not done yet,” Sausen said.

Most of the necessary changes are over wording, said Sigglekow. He added that the Park Board didn’t even realize that the state’s Finance Department needed to sign off on the RUA because the bonds were issued so long ago. But a memo from MPRB Director of Planning Judd Rietkerk to DeLaSalle Trustee John Derus from Jan. 13, 2005 indicates that they knew the state would “have issues” with the deal.

“We don’t necessarily agree that they do have a purview over it,” Siggelkow said, “but they feel it’s important, so we will conform to that.”

MPRB staff plans to fix the RUA, get the finance commissioner’s approval, and then bring it before the Park Board commissioners on Nov. 28.

In addition to working out issues with the RUA, the landowners need to decide whether the field will have artificial or natural turf. When City Council approved the deal in August, they asked for natural grass on the field, but when the Park Board approved the project in September, they specified that it must have artificial turf. DeLaSalle has sided with the Park Board and hopes to resolve the matter with the city by this winter.

On top of the land issues, the school has to deal with several lawsuits against the project, including one from Nicollet Island residents. Under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, the developer has to show that there aren’t any feasible alternatives to building a field on historical land should their work cause destruction, said Lisa Hondros, one of the residents involved in the suit.

“There are lots of possibilities,” she said, naming Parade Stadium in Lowry Hill where the school’s baseball team currently plays, as an option. “The problem is that they have never looked at anything [else] seriously.”

Under direction from the Park Board, DeLaSalle is posting a construction bond while the lawsuits continue.