Minor league Saints, St. Paul seek $25 million from state for new stadium
MINNEAPOLIS While the chatter grows louder over the possibility of a new Vikings stadium, a quieter movement is afoot to get a ballpark in St. Paul's Lowertown. The city of St. Paul and the St. Paul Saints are stepping up to the plate once again ...
While the chatter grows louder over the possibility of a new Vikings stadium, a quieter movement is afoot to get a ballpark in St. Paul's Lowertown.
The city of St. Paul and the St. Paul Saints are stepping up to the plate once again with the hopes of getting $25 million from the Legislature in 2011 to build the venue.
It became obvious last week when the City Council approved its legislative agenda that the ballpark is a priority. Only two building projects are being pushed: the ballpark and $9 million for an Asian-Pacific cultural center.
"We feel the project is well vetted and ready to go," said city lobbyist Wendy Underwood. Plans call for it to sit on the old Gillette factory property, across from the St. Paul Farmers Market, and hug the maintenance facility for the planned Central Corridor light-rail line.
Underwood said timing is important because two big projects, a new Lafayette Bridge and the Central Corridor, will be underway next year and will share space with the proposed ballpark site.
Efforts to get funding through the last legislative session's bonding bill were unsuccessful, and it's going to be a challenge in the coming session, too.
Although it's not a bonding year, Gov.-elect Mark Dayton, a DFLer, has said he'd support a projects bill. Republican leaders have pointed to the $6.2 billion budget deficit and said solving that is their top priority.
Over the past several months, businesses, residents, fans and politicians have been organizing support for a Lowertown ballpark. From signs to social media messages, supporters are trying to build the buzz.
The proposal has had bipartisan support, with sponsors from both parties sponsoring bills in the past. The St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce is a strong advocate.
Tom Whaley, the Saints' executive vice president for business affairs, said the goal right now is to organize the support and have a united voice to take to legislators when they show up for the new term in January.
At this point, he said, there hasn't been any talk of trying to tack the St. Paul project onto a possible Vikings stadium proposal. Extra money was found for more library hours and youth sports when the Twins stadium bill was approved in 2006.
"We think this is a project that stands strong on its own," Whaley said.
Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, sits on the capital improvement committee and said the ballpark is a worthwhile project because it will prime economic growth. She added that the poor economy means it costs less to pay for projects. Still, she's also realistic after conversations with her Republican colleagues.
"It's certainly an uphill battle," she said.
The 7,500-seat ballpark would be owned by St. Paul. Aside from the $25 million sought from the state, the city would cover $10 million and the Saints would chip in $10 million.
The Saints, who draw about 6,000 people to each home game, would be the big-name tenants and play about 50 games there each summer. The facility also would be used by college and high school baseball teams, youth teams and for other events. Advocates say it would be a regional asset that would be in use 210 days per year.
Midway Stadium, the Saints current home built in 1982, is by most accounts a heap that requires expensive renovations.
The new ballpark would have more seats, better concession areas and bathrooms, and would be in a part of the city that is seeing new investment and more energy. The team says ticket prices wouldn't go up, and the $2 hot dog at Midway would still be $2 at a new park.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.