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Could Ted Mondale help build a new Saints ballpark?

Proposed St. Paul Saints ballpark

With the Metrodome needing serious repairs and the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) and St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) asking the public to pony up for new facilities, Ted Mondale is proposing a Twin Cities-area stadium authority to address the issues.

You may recognize the name: he’s the son of former vice-president Walter Mondale and a power player himself in the Twin Cities, now serving as the head of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission at the request of Gov. Mark Dayton. Technically speaking, the only sports facility under his purview is the Metrodome, but the MSFC has been working with the Vikings on a new-stadium proposal.

Sports facilities have been in the news this legislative session: the city of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Timberwolves are proposing the $150-million makeover of Target Center, the Minnesota Wild and the city of the St. Paul are proposing debt on Xcel Energy Center be wiped off the state books, and the St. Paul Saints are seeking state aid for a new downtown ballpark. All are legitimate requests.

What Mondale is proposing is putting management of all these sporting facilities, as well as Target Field, under the MSFC umbrella. There are no efficiencies when it comes to daily operations, but there are some killer efficiences when it comes to issuing bonds and perhaps instituting a regional facilities tax of some sort, whether it’s a rental-car tax (rental-car taxes in the Twin Cities are among the lowest in the nation — a legacy of when National Car Rental was headquartered in suburban Minneapolis and bitterly opposed any hike in rental-car taxes) or a small hike in the restaurant/bar sales tax, the same tax used to build the Metrodome in the first place.

Taking control of sports facilities from cities and counties is a sticky one. On the one hand, Hennepin County stepped up to fund Target Field, and we’re guessing county commissioners will be loathe to give up control (right now the ballpark is run by the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, made up of folks appointed by Minneapolis and Hennepin County). Similarly, St. Paul may not want to give up control of Xcel Energy Center — though trading debt for control may be appealing to some in City Hall.

Right now it’s the elephants debating the issue, and we expect lots of discussion, especially when a plan is presented to the Minnesota Legislature. It’s not clear whether a regional stadium authority would be a plus or a minus for the Saints as they pursue ballpark funding: something like a $20 million public contribution — which has been proposed by Gov. Dayton — may be too small to attract the attention of the elephants.

Image courtesy of the St. Paul Saints.

RELATED STORIES: Dayton proposes $20M for new Saints ballpark; St. Paul makes Saints ballpark state-funding priority; First look: Proposed St. Paul Saints ballpark

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