The following article by Nick Woltman was published in the August 7, 2014 issue of the PioneerPress.
Minneapolis park board says site next to Vikings stadium isn’t a park
Twin Cities developer Ryan Cos. unveiled plans Tuesday, May 14, 2013, for a $400 million mixed-use development adjacent to the planned new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Ryan is buying five blocks from the Star Tribune Co. for the project, which will include office space, retail, housing and a public park. Images courtesy Ryan Cos.
The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board voted on Wednesday to wash its hands of a park — known informally as The Yard — planned as part of the massive Downtown East development.
The board voted 6-2 to adopt a resolution removing itself from The Yard’s development, maintenance and operation, saying the space “does not truly qualify as a public park.”
One board commissioner abstained from the vote.
As a result of a lawsuit filed late last year, the city of Minneapolis had planned to turn The Yard over to the board following its construction by Minneapolis developer Ryan Cos. Ryan and the city worked together to spearhead the Downtown East project.
The nearly two-block park would abut the new Vikings football stadium.
The Park Board cited the use agreement between the city, the Vikings organization and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which gives the Vikings and the MSFA control of The Yard for at least 60 days each year for game-day activities. That could stretch to as many as 90 days when event set-up and tear-down are included, said Liz Wielinski, park board president.
The board would have to cede the park to those purposes on the allotted days.
The Park Board, which has authority over the city’s public parks, was not a party to the use agreement.
“Call it whatever you want, but it ain’t a park,” commissioner Anita Tabb said during the 90 minutes of debate before the vote. “And it certainly ain’t public.”
The Park Board also said this arrangement would limit its ability to schedule programming at the park — the board’s only source of outside revenue. The board estimates it will cost $2 million to $3 million annually to operate and maintain The Yard.
Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said the park board’s decision won’t affect the park’s development
Segal said the park likely will end up being maintained and operated by a conservancy.