Another year, another run at the new St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) ballpark funding plan — and the news this year is the most positive ever for a new downtown facility.
January is usually the time when the annual drive for a new ballpark begins. The month sees the beginning of the State Legislature session, and it’s when governors and local units of government ask the Legislature to fund a laundry list of projects via bonding.
The past few years the city of St. Paul has formally asked the Legislature to bond a new Saints ballpark, but as part of a larger request, and never as a priority. This year things are different: $27 million for a new downtown St. Paul ballpark is on Gov. Mark Dayton’s list of bonding requests. The leadership in the Minnesota State Senate has changed as well: a more moderate (and, importantly, ballpark-friendly) Sen. Dave Senjem now heads the caucus.
There have been all sorts of reasons why state funding of a new Saints ballpark failed in past years, mostly through opposition from important state legislators who say one thing in public and then work to kill the project behind the scenes. And while those dynamics are always at play during a legislative session, so far the funding request for the ballpark has been met with qualified support. We’re not hearing any important figures totally dead-set against the Saints project. The only real cloud on the horizon may come from the Minnesota House, whose Republican members tend to be more conservative than Republican senators: the Legislature agreed to $500 million in bonding last year, and there’s a definite apprehension about another round of bonding this year. (Traditionally, the Minnesota Legislature bonds every other year.) Still, there is lots of optimism that some sort of bonding bill will pass the Legislature this year, which mean we could see a new Saints ballpark by the 2014 season.
The project certainly has merit. The plan is for a $50-million ballpark in downtown St. Paul; the state would pay $27 million, the Saints $10 million and the city picking up the rest of the cost, which would include the new facility, as well as site demolition and soil remediation. It allows St. Paul to clean up a problematic Lowertown lot and give more life to an area that will be served by light rail and other new construction in coming years.
Rendering courtesy of the St. Paul Saints.
A version of this story appeared in last week’s Ballpark Digest weekly newsletter. Are you a subscriber? You can sign up for a free subscription at the Newsletter Signup Page.
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