Twins executive Jerry Bell provided an update to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, which has enacted a county-wide sales tax to fund more than half the ballpark's cost -- $260-million.
Bell told commissioners that team officials decided to pay the extra $22 million to cover a variety of design upgrades. The decorative stone work, for example, will be one of the most durable, and expensive, types of Mankato limestone.
Bell also explained how the underside of the canopy roof over the infield grandstands will have a protective covering called a soffit, meaning the steel girders will not be exposed as they are in many ballparks.
"Steel can be subject to rusting. It certainly is welcomed by all the pigeons in the neighborhood. By putting this soffit underneath there, it gives it a more finished and much nicer look. That costs $4.5 million to do that," Bell said.
The Twins also opted to boost the number of rest rooms and concession stands. They're putting in a high-definition scoreboard. And the team is adding several rooms that Bell described as shelters -- temperature-controlled, glass-enclosed areas intended to help fans softened by years of indoor baseball adjust to the outdoor game.
"They will give fans an opportunity to take a break from the weather, regardless of what it is. They're not encouraged to stay in there during the whole game," Bell said, "but you can go in there and warm up or cool off, as the case may be. "
While the Twins outlined plans to spend more on the ballpark, the county learned it will have less money for design features to connect the stadium to the surrounding neighborhood.
The county has $105 million to spend on infrastructure costs related to the ballpark, which is going up on a former parking lot on the western edge of downtown Minneapolis.
The county's project manager, Rick Johnson, says moving and re-connecting the utility lines under the site is a more complex and expensive task than officials anticipated.
Johnson said the county is covering the added cost by tapping $15 million to $18 million that had been earmarked for enhancements to the ballpark neighborhood.
The nature of those enhancements was left vague during the budgeting process, but Johnson said they might include decorative lighting and walkways, trees and other landscaping, signs directing pedestrians to the ballpark or even public art.
Johnson is optimistic the county can still come up with the money for such improvements -- if, when the ballpark is built, any money is left in a contingency fund for cost overruns, that could be applied. Or, Johnson says, the county may find a partner willing to help.
"Typically surrounding property owners would see some benefit from doing some decorative lighting or landscaping in front of their building when we put this new stadium in. The city of Minneapolis, I think, can continue to be a partner," Johnson said.
A spokesman for Mayor R.T. Rybak said a vibrant neighborhood around the new ballpark is important to Minneapolis, but the city has not yet been approached by the county about cost sharing.
Jerry Bell said ballpark construction is on schedule for the Twins to begin play in their new home in April of 2010, ending their stay in the Metrodome after twenty-eight years.