Judge gives city, Park Board until May to resolve Commons park management

A Hennepin County District Court Judge has set a deadline for the city and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to determine the future management status of a park adjacent to U.S. Bank Stadium.

A Feb. 5 order from Judge Bruce Peterson gave the city until May 1 to turn the 4.2 acre Downtown Commons over to the Park Board, which is charged with managing parks within Minneapolis.

“He’s basically given us 90 days to figure the situation out with the city,” Park Board attorney Brian Rice told commissioners on Feb. 6.

City Attorney Susan Segal said there will be a further challenge to the ruling to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

“We expect there will be a joint appeal of the district court order by the Park Board and the city,” Segal said.

Park Board president Brad Bourn said Feb. 6 they will discuss the ruling and take action at a future meeting.

John Hayden, who filed the suit in Nov. 2017 along with former City Council Member Paul Ostrow on grounds that the city violated its charter by operating a park, said the judge’s rulings show the law is clear and continued appeals from the city don’t serve public interest.

“If they want to keep going, we can keep going,” Hayden said.

The management of the Commons has been debated since U.S. Bank Stadium was approved by the state legislature in 2012. In 2013, Ryan Companies entered into a use agreement for the Commons with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority that allowed the MSFA and Vikings to use the space for game days and other events and created an understanding that Ryan Companies would later turn the space over to the city or its “designee”. In 2014, the Park Board adopted a resolution declaring the Commons was did not “truly qualify as a public park”.

In 2017, the city conveyed the Commons to the Park Board. The same day, the Park Board leased it back to the city, which runs the park via the nonprofit Green Minneapolis. Funding for the park is gathered from Green Minneapolis, Ryan Companies, the Vikings, parking ramp revenue, and, in 2018, the city contributed $750,000 of downtown asset funds to the Commons. The Park Board has approved the use of park dedication fees in the area to be spent on improvements at the Commons.

Hayden said he believes the Park Board would have a good legal standing to not abide by the land use agreement, and hopes they push for a new arrangement with the MSFA and the Vikings.

“What needs to happen, more than anything, is the Park Board needs to renegotiate it,” he said.

The Park Board and city have said this agreement is like arrangement’s MPRB has with organizations like The Loppet Foundation and that it doesn’t violate the city charter.

The judge’s order will require a new management plan come May 1 regardless of the appeal process.

Park Board Assistant Superintendent Michael Schroeder said the MPRB is preparing to take over management and operations at that time.