The decision to look again at Lents as a potential site for the AAA baseball stadium could open a whole different can of worms related to key parkland recommendations made by the Major League Soccer Task Force, earlier this year.
Urban Greenspaces Institute executive director Mike Houck made these concerns clear in a letter to Mayor Sam Adams this morning, describing the situation in Lents as like a "house of cards." Houck sat on the MLS Task Force, and says he only supported the MLS deal on the condition that if a baseball stadium were sited in Lents, the city would buy other park land to replace that used by the new stadium.
The Task Force recommendations specified that: "No open space land in a public park will be taken for use in the project. If no alternative exists to using open space land in a public park, the project costs will include funds to purchase or develop and to maintain equivalent open space land for public use in the same area of the city."
That recommendation could drastically drive up the cost of locating a stadium in Lents.
The cost of developing a stadium at the Coliseum site is projected in the task force report as $37million, while the cost of building one in Lents is projected as just $18million. But Houck says that cost estimate doesn't factor in the cost of buying new park land for $4 to $6million, and developing it at a cost of roughly $5 to $8million, making the relative cost of the two sites roughly equivalent. These reservations aren't necessarily going to kill the deal, but Houck pushed hard on the task force to get his voice heard and is unlikely to go quietly if the city goes against the task force report by simply stealing park land for the stadium, without replacing it.
Expect cries of "why did the city organize the task force in the first place if it planned to disregard its key recommendations?" and the like. In fact...
"While the Coliseum site may well prove to be problematic, the Lents Park site is equally problematic if Council takes the taskforce's recommendations seriously," writes Houck. "If the MLS deal continues to have the support of Council, I urge you to seek a replacement baseball stadium site that meets all of the taskforce's criteria, including a true cost-benefit analysis, including the cost of acquiring the necessary land, and that does not necessitate the taking of existing park land."
You can download a copy of the letter here...