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08/20/07 11:58 PM ET

Twins ballpark land worth $23.8 million

Ruling could be appealed by county and landowners

MINNEAPOLIS -- Within a few years, there will be pitchers' duels taking place on a downtown Minneapolis plot of land where they're prepping to build a new Twins ballpark. But for now, the dueling lawyers continue to have their turn at the plate.

On Monday, an independent three-person panel issued a judgment saying Hennepin County will have to pay $10 million more than was budgeted for Twins ballpark land, but that ruling may be appealed by either the county or the current landowners.

Aron Kahn, a spokesperson for the landowners and their development partner, said that Land Partners II will consider the award over the next two days and then will decide whether to appeal the judgment.

The panel, made up of retired judge Robert H. Schumacher, Richard Black and Larry Tucker, determined that the land itself was worth $22.408 million, and that the landowners were owed another $1.4 million for severance and temporary easements. Tucker, a former real estate appraiser, did not sign the recommendation, and filed a dissenting report with the county in which he states that the land is worth more than $33 million. Tucker's action has fueled speculation that Land Partners II will appeal the decision, and that the dispute will be settled in court later this year.

In May, the county approved payment of $13.75 million to the landowners to begin quick-take action, so that clearing of the site and initial construction could begin. In the finding issued to the county, the panel said that the money already paid will be credited against full payment of the $23.808 million.

County commissioners convened a meeting on Monday morning to decide their next course of action. Both the county and Land Partners II have the right to appeal the panel's decision and seek a trial to determine a final value for the land.

County and Twins officials have noted in the past that they have $90 million total to spend on land and infrastructure and will need significant dollars for the adjoining roads, bridges and walkways that are expected to surround the new facility, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2010 baseball season.

After the Monday announcement, the Twins said plans for the ballpark's construction continue despite the continued discussions about the land price.

"To this point, the county has handled this proceeding and the Twins have been focused on designing the new ballpark," said Kevin Smith, the team's executive director of public affairs. "The project goes on as we begin to drive piles later this week and prepare for the Aug. 30 groundbreaking celebration. We look forward to going ahead with building a Twins ballpark for the ages."

Jess Meyers is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.