KARE 11 Report on The Yard

The following segment by Reporter John Croman regarding The Yard was telecast by KARE 11 on June 9, 2014.  The original story can be viewed at http://www.kare11.com/story/news/local/2014/06/09/new-mpls-park-already-spoken-for-part-of-the-year/10257763/
Park Watch note: The assumption expressed at the conclusion of the segment that the Park Board would own “The Yard,” but not run it is an incorrect assumption because “The Yard” is not a public park.

(Photo: KARE)

MINNEAPOLIS — A two-block green space built into the Ryan Companies’ Downtown East development will become a park known as The Yard, but it won’t function the way most Minneapolis parks do.

For starters the park will come with a minimum number of calendar dates already locked in for stadium-related events.

A four-way agreement: http://archive.kare11.com/assetpool/documents/140609061231_Urban%20Park%20Use%20Agreement%20-%20Executed%20%28716565%29.PDF between Ryan Companies, The Vikings, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the City of Minneapolis guarantees a certain number of days will be reserved for activities connected to games and concerts.

The Vikings will get to use the park for up to 16 games per year, including 10 home games. The pact allows the team 72 hours for setting up and breaking down temporary structures connected to the fan experience. If the Vikings bring a professional soccer team to Minneapolis, the park will be reserved for those events too.

The team, in exchange for use of the public park, gave up on the idea of a large, year-round fan plaza that would’ve taken up nearly a city block.

The change came about when then-Mayor RT Rybak looked for ways to encourage Wells Fargo to locate its new corporate headquarters in the undeveloped blocks adjacent to the new Vikings stadium. The city agreed to finance acquisition of the new green space, and to pay for most of a parking ramp that will serve the Wells Fargo development and the new stadium.

The agreement also allows the stadium authority to use the eastern block of The Yard for 40 days, most likely concerts or amateur sporting events.

All combined, both blocks of the park would be set aside for events linked to the stadium up to 20 days a year, while the eastern block would be tied up as many as 60 days.

Public access as goal

“We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure this is a public space, a public park, open to everybody,” City Council member Jacob Frey told KARE.

“There definitely be shared use going forward, but we want to make sure this will not be some corporate courtyard for the rich with this ‘keep off the grass’ sign right in the middle,” Frey, who was not on the council yet when the deal was inked, explained.

Frey said the Stadium Authority’s use of the park will draw a large number of visitors who’ll want to return for other activities.

“Largely what the MFSA will be doing is programming, which is something that the city wants. We don’t want just want a whole bunch of dead grass and pigeons flying around. We want a dynamic happening space with outdoor movies in the summer and ice skating in the winter.”

But some critics have raised questions about the nontraditional arrangement for the space bordered by Park Ave. on the east, 5th Avenue on the west, 4th street on the North and 5th Street on the south.

For example, only the Minneapolis Parks Board is allowed to develop and own public parks. In this case the board is inheriting a large new urban park space but won’t have complete control over it.

“A Minneapolis public park needs to be available to the public, and the determination of who uses it and when they use it has to be made by the park board,” Arlene Fried of Minneapolis Park Watch, a citizen watchdog group, told KARE.

“It’s becoming increasingly apparent that The Yard is not going to be a public park.”
The Parks Board declined to comment for this report.

Mayor Betsy Hodges issued a statement expressing confidence in the process that’s currently in play.

“From the very start, this space was meant to serve the dual purpose of stadium plaza and public park, and the City and our dedicated staff team negotiated the best park-use deal available in the context of very challenging, months-long negotiations with many public and private partners,” Mayor Hodges wrote.

“I expect the Vikings and the Authority to be good partners with the community in making sure that the events that they program at the park are also in the public interest and maximize the public’s participation.”