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This Week Live: Minor league on deck in Burnsville

THIS WEEK LIVE 

Burnsville considers $27 million proposal to bring the Metro Millers into a new ‘green’ stadium near 35W and Hwy. 13

Courtesy of DJR Architecture

Burnsville City Council members have thrown their initial support behind a $27 million proposal to build a privately funded professional baseball stadium.

“I think this would be a fabulous project for the city,” Council Member Charlie Crichton said.

“We all embrace it, not only for Burnsville, but for south of the river. Our staff will do what we have to do to expedite this,” Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said.

The only concerns voiced at a work session introducing the project focused on noise and the extremely tight timeline.

Council Member Liz Workman said she was in favor of the project. Her concern was any noise that might reach residents in Bloomington to the north.

Developers assured her that there was plenty of space between the ballpark location and Bloomington. Also, the 35W and Highway 13 interchange produces more noise than any fans might.

Terry Deroche, representing Touch ‘Em All Sports, LLC, and Tony Pettit, representing the investor group, are pursuing an aggressive timeline for the project. They want ballplayers to be packing in the crowds by next summer.

“It can be done,” Architect Dean Dovolis told council members.

The project will first require a mandatory environmental assessment. Burnsville Communications Coordinator Jim Skelly said that would likely take three months before coming back before the Council.

There is also the issue of land use plans for the Minnesota River Quadrant. The concept plan developed by the city shows the area of the proposed ballpark, in the northwest quadrant of the Interstate 35W and Highway 13 interchange, as a medical technical campus.

This development is also within a special tax increment financing (TIF) district. Under state law, TIF allows cities to pay for infrastructure improvements by using additional tax revenue collected in newly developed areas. State law prohibits the use of TIF for social or recreational purposes like the ballpark.

However, this doesn’t mean the project can’t move forward. In fact, this may mean that the Economic Development Authority could use TIF to build the roads and sewers the ballpark’s developers are asking the city to fund. That would be contingent on this infrastructure serving the entire 1,700-acre quadrant.

Earth-friendly, family-friendly
The proposed stadium doesn’t disappoint. It’s designers tout it as an energy- generating building which will rely on wind power.

Dovolis said they’re going for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the building. LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

Using wind turbines mounted around the stadium on light stands, the designers plan to feed power back to the grid when the stadium is not in use.

The Northern League ballplayers wouldn’t be the only athletes with access to this state-of-the-art facility. Developers want this to be a community event center with room for 400 in a two-room banquet facility and a year-round restaurant. The ballpark would be open for area tournaments as well as community college and high school teams.

“We have been working towards this moment for quite a long time,” Northern League Commissioner Clark Griffith said. “The Northern League has a very specific business plan. We like to have good stadiums and good owners to provide a game that is family oriented. We design our stadiums to be family-friendly and this stadium is especially so.”

The design is an open concourse so families can watch the games from anywhere around the perimeter of the building. There will be picnic areas and berms ideal for viewing the action.

“We also have tons of promotions during the game,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a dead moment in Northern League games.”

Rich history
The proposed stadium would be a new home to an old Minnesota team—the Metro Millers. Started in 1884, the minor league Minneapolis Millers won their first Western League pennant in 1896 at Nicollet Park. Sixty years later, they moved to a brand new Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. They played their last game in 1955.

Fifteen players who started with the Millers were inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame including Willie Mays. If the stadium does happen, those fifteen names will appear above the doorways of the private suites in the upper decks.

The stadium itself will boast reserved seating of 4,800, berm seating of 1,000, and club seating (the most expensive) of 1,000. Total seating would be 7,300.

The developers also hope to create a “stadium village” on an additional 8-acre that would include commercial and retail development with room for a possible big box retailer.

The plans have caught the attention and imagination of city council members. Mayor Elizabeth Kautz welcomed the development team to Burnsville at the close of their presentation. She said the Council will deal with the details and technical aspects of the project as it comes before them, but recommended that the developers meet with Bloomington city officials as well as Burnsville residents across Highway 13 to keep them apprised of the project.

In terms of the tight timeline, no one in the room expressed too much doubt about the project completion.

“If you can build a 35W bridge in less than a year, then you can do this too,” Kautz said.

Jeff Achen is at online.thisweek@ecm-inc.com.

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