Barons of the ballpark

A closer look at the community leaders overseeing development of the new Twins stadium

As the gears slowly start turning on the development of the new $522 million Minnesota Twins ballpark, a handful of people will play powerful roles in shaping the publicly funded stadium.

Leading the way are the five members of the newly formed Minnesota Ballpark Authority, which the Legislature created to own and oversee the development of the Twins stadium slated for the North Loop neighborhood.

But while the Ballpark Authority is the lead governmental body that will make decisions on the 42,000-seat stadium, an Implementation Committee will also review land use and development issues and provide important input on the impact the stadium will have on Downtown. In addition, Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials have organized flow charts designating point people who are working on the stadium on their behalf.

These individuals will be the key players in one of the biggest developments Downtown has seen in years. So just who are they?

The Ballpark Authority

Almost all major decisions - whether made by Hennepin County, Minneapolis or the Twins - must be approved by the Minnesota Ballpark Authority. The Ballpark Authority was created by the stadium legislation passed this spring and includes one member appointed by the city of Minneapolis, two members appointed by Hennepin County and two members appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The city appointed former Minneapolis City Councilmember Joan Campbell as its representative. The county appointed Authority Chair Steve Cramer, a former Minneapolis City Councilmember and director of the Downtown-based Project for Pride in Living, and retiring State Rep. Barb Sykora (R-33B). And the governor appointed Mike Vekich, chair of the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco, and John Wade, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. The ballpark legislation required that one member of the Authority live outside Hennepin County, and Wade - who lives and works in Rochester - fits that bill.

All members are tuned in to the needs of both Hennepin County and the rest of the state, Wade said.

&#8220What strikes me about the commission itself is that everybody is not just committed to building this ballpark on time and on budget, but everyone shares a passion for building a ballpark that is really a tribute to the entire state of Minnesota,” Wade said.

Implementation Committee

Another group that will be key to the development of the new ballpark is the Implementation Committee. Like the Ballpark Authority, this organization was created by the stadium legislation.

The role of the Implementation Committee will be to review and make recommendations on municipal land use and development issues - things like parking, lighting, landscaping, utilities and environmental remediation - and to streamline the city approval process so the stadium development doesn't get bogged down.

&#8220It was an attempt to keep what is an incredibly tight timeline going,” said Chuck Ballentine, the Implementation Committee point person for the County.

The Implementation Committee works independently from but somewhat under the Ballpark Authority and must have equal representation from both Minneapolis and Hennepin County. So far, the Implementation Committee has just four members: City Council President Barb Johnson (4th Ward), City Councilmember and Community Development Committee Chair Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin (District 4) and Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein (District 2).

But the committee will likely expand after city officials suggested that members of the business community and residents also have seats at the table.

&#8220I'm looking toward the model we had with the City Center expansion and the [New Central] Library project, which was about an eight- to 10-person Implementation Committee that had not just elected officials but people from the business community and residents,” Johnson said. &#8220That's the kind of model I would like to see.”

Other key players from the city and county

As officials from the Twins start working on plans for the ballpark, both Minneapolis and Hennepin County have set up organizational charts listing the point people who will be working on the stadium.

Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) Director Lee Sheehy is serving as the city's team leader and will oversee 23 city employees working on the stadium. The city has also been holding regular meetings that familiarize staff with the major developments that will take place and the city's role in the new ballpark, Sheehy said.

The county has also a list of people who will be working on the development of the stadium. In addition to serving as the point person on the Implementation Committee, Ballentine will head up the county's efforts on some of the transportation and environmental issues generated by the stadium. Marcia Wilda will serve as the county's point person on the land acquisition.

The point people from the various city departments are relying on the experience they gained with recent development projects such as the Midtown Exchange and the new Guthrie Theater, said Mike Christenson, director of strategic partnerships for CPED and one of the city employees working under Sheehy in a coordination role.

&#8220We just want to be prepared,” Christenson said. &#8220It's a big project, and we want to do it well.”

Kari VanDerVeen can be reached at [email protected] and 436-4373.