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Warehouse District site identified - Minneapolis
The threat of the Twins moving to St. Paul had caught the attention of the business community in Minneapolis, which, up to this point, had been largely silent on the issue. During the run-up to the St. Paul referendum in 1999, an independent working group was formed by Minneapolis businessmen Bruce Lambrecht and Rich Pogin, representatives of a group of investors which owned the Rapid Park parking lot in the historic warehouse district on the northern edge of downtown Minneapolis. This group, initially known as Minnesota Urban Ballpark, and later as MN Twinsville, formed with the express purpose of bringing their land into the discussion about sites for a new Twins ballpark.
At first, the 8-acre site appeared to be an extremely unlikely location for a modern professional baseball facility. Besides being far smaller than most MLB sites (modern facilities typically require 16-20 acres), it was hemmed in by railroad tracks, a freeway, and two city streets passing on bridges. Though very near to Target Center, it was also adjacent to the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC), more commonly known as the city's "garbage burner," considered by some to be an undesirable neighbor for a ballpark.
But the site’s perceived liabilities were easily offset by significant assets. Careful measurements were made by Lambrecht and local architect David Albersman, which proved that there was enough room for a baseball field and the amenities associated with a Major League ballpark. The site was adjacent to three large, underused parking ramps, and at the potential nexus of a light rail line then being planned (ultimately the Metro Transit Blue Line), and a commuter rail line also under consideration (the eventual Northstar Line). It was also controlled by a single owner who would be a willing seller. This fact alone would significantly simplify the process of acquisition by a governmental entity for a large-scale project. Owing largely to these logistical advantages, as well as an expansive view of the Minneapolis skyline, and the persistence of Lambrecht and Pogin's group, this site would eventually come to house Target Field.
In early 2000, Lambrecht’s group commissioned a visit by Earl Santee of Populous (then known as HOK Sport) to evaluate whether the site had the potential to house Major League Baseball. His visit, independent of the Twins and all government entities, happened with no publicity whatsoever. Santee reviewed the site and reacted with skepticism, but saw no fatal flaws, nothing that made a ballpark impossible. He agreed to provide the working group with a concept drawing of a ballpark on that site, an image which was first published in August 2000, and quickly became the center of their ultimately successful campaign.
As Santee's dramatic drawing became more widely published, and Lambrecht and Pogin ramped up their lobbying efforts, others began to realize the advantages of the site. This included Mark Oyaas, founder of New Ballpark, Inc., a separate group of downtown Minneapolis business leaders, who sought to create a private financing plan for a stadium. They quickly settled on Rapid Park as their preferred ballpark site, which enhanced its visibility significantly. The Twins, however, completely ignored Rapid Park, and kept their distance from all of the ad hoc working groups. They would eventually go on record as believing that the Rapid Park site was too small and constrained to house the type of facility they sought to build.