MPRB Amends DeLaSalle RUA, the taxpayers on the line for millions and land, too

Park Board’s Planning Committee approves amended agreement with DeLaSalle that has a poison pill obligating the Park Board to build DeLaSalle a new stadium if it later decides not to renew the lease.

With a clause like this, it makes one wonder who exactly is protecting the interests of the taxpaying public with this deal?

From the Downtown Journal website

Amendments to DeLaSalle agreement approved
UPDATED January 24, 2008, 5:08pm

By Mary O’Regan

On Wednesday evening, the Planning Committee of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) approved amendments from Tom Hanson, the state Finance Commissioner, to a Reciprocal Use Agreement (RUA) between the Park Board and DeLaSalle High School for a shared athletic field to be constructed next to the school, which is on Nicollet Island.

One amendment would change the length of the lease from two 30-year terms and one 10-year term to three 20-year terms and one 10-year term. If the Park Board were to decide against renewing the lease, another amendment would obligate it to build a new athletic field for DeLaSalle adjacent to the school.  And if DeLaSalle were to decide against renewing the lease, it would have to remove the field completely.

MPRB attorney Brian Rice said the objective in negotiating the amendments was to maintain the integrity of the board’s original approval of the RUA from last fall.

Southeast Commissioner Scott Vreeland likened the amendments to giving the Park Board a “poison pill,” which would leave the organization helpless to get out of the deal.

“The liability of the Park Board is greatly increased by this amendment,” he said. “It’s politically unpalatable.”

Northeast Commissioner Walt Dziedzic noted that the Park Board is bound by a 1983 Nicollet Island Agreement to build an athletic field on the land. The fact that an outside benefactor is willing to come in and pay for it gets the Park Board off the hook, he said, adding that if they ended the agreement early, they’d be forced to build DeLaSalle a field anyway, and this way the usage of the field is shared.

Rep. Phyllis Khan (DFL) 59B, who lives on Nicollet Island, wrote a letter to Hanson questioning his approval of the amendments. She cited a statement from Michael Norton, outside counsel to the Park Board, that said, “DeLaSalle is not a party to the 1983 agreement and ‘has no direct contractual rights under the agreement.'” She also said there is technically no adjacent land where a new field could be built should the Park Board end the lease early.

The amendments are expected to go before the full board at its next meeting Feb. 6.