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09/21/07 5:57 PM ET

New park construction on schedule

First tower crane expected to be erected on site next week

Construction of the new Minnesota Twins ballpark is about on time. That was the message given Friday to the Minnesota Ballpark Authority.

"We are about three hours ahead of schedule," said Dan Mehls, construction executive with Mortenson Construction. "I say that kind of seriously. We are on an extremely tight, extremely aggressive schedule."

Mehls said plans now call for workers to be on site for the next 10-12 Saturdays in hopes of getting further ahead, noting it's easier to work with less workers on site. "The equipment is there, so we may as well put it to use."

The first tower crane is expected to be erected on the site next week, about half of the dirt has been moved, and piles will continue to be driven 100 feet into the ground for the ballpark foundation. About 250 of the 2,700 piles have been driven so far, Mehls said, noting the work began in the future right field corner and near Bassett Creek.

The first column extending skyward is to be built Oct. 5, as the building structure begins.

"All arrangements have been made with [the Minnesota Department of Transportation] to allow us access to the Interstate 394 area, so we're in the process of redoing some of the lanes in the 394 area so we can do some pile driving operations in the right-of-way," he said. This will allow for construction of a pedestrian bridge over the interstate to occur through the winter, with pouring of decks to begin in the spring, once the weather warms.

Mehls said bids to construct "the superstructure of the building" are to go out starting Sept. 24, and accepted until Oct. 16.

A final public design and budget approval is expected to be addressed by the authority Nov. 9, three days after the county board is scheduled to have its final say.

There have been no recordable or lost time incidents thus far; something Mehls said has to do with a proactive partnership with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

"They're welcome to come on the site whenever they want and we have a periodic site visit where they walk the project," Mehls said. "We found that this kind of relationship has been beneficial, as opposed to waiting for them to show up and everybody running around afraid of a citation."

The construction project has a workforce diversity goal of 25 percent minority and 5 percent female workers. Of the 5,600 recorded hours to date, current rates are 13 percent minority and 11 percent female.

"We're just getting stated," said Lynn Littlejohn, director of community affairs for Mortenson Construction. "We need to make sure that subcontractors know of this and they work with our community partners."

Additionally, a participation goal for work by minority- or women-owned businesses is 30 percent. So far, the number is 29 percent, representing $7.9 million if the $29 million in contracts awarded.

In other news:

• Behind closed doors in executive session, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman updated the authority on the legal fight over the final price for the land upon which the ballpark is being built. No action was taken. The landowners are reportedly asking $33.18 million for the parcel, which was assessed by the county to be worth about $13 million. The county upped its offer to $19.3 million earlier this month.

• The authority Web site (www.ballparkauthority.com) is expected to have a new look by the middle of next week. Among the highlights, according to Administrative Manager Susie Helget, will be a frequently asked questions section, and more construction information, hopefully including a Web cam. She hopes to add more technological items in the future, such as an exterior fly around video shown to the authority.

• The authority passed a resolution to engage in negotiations to contract with Virchow Krause to conduct an annual audit of the ballpark project. The company "provided significant assistance as the MBA negotiated the Lease and Use Agreements for the ballpark. They also provided services related to the Construction Trust and Disbursing Agreement," according to the resolution.

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