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State aid for Saints ballpark coming down to the wire

Proposed St. Paul Saints ballpark

State funding for a new St. Paul Saints ballpark (independent; American Association) is very much in the air, as Minnesota legislators hunker down for the end of the 2012 session.

There are two big issues before lawmakers that could in theory involve St. Paul’s request for $27 million in state funding for a Lowertown ballpark: a bonding bill and the Minnesota Vikings stadium legislation. Every two years the Minnesota Legislature passes a bonding bill, borrowing money for large projects. Finding for the Saints was originally included in Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding request; Republicans responded with two bonding bills that would have included ballpark planning money and totally stripping ballpark funding, respectively. 

Action on the a Vikings stadium bill, which has included discussions of Saints ballpark funding, is likely to happen early next week after passing through committee, where there have already been a few attempts to tack Saints ballpark funding on a Vikings bill, as St. Paul officials argue they should get something if Minneapolis gets the big prize. Judging by our overnight email, there’s optimism about some state money coming St. Paul’s way, but one likely method — paying the city $1.3 million annually for 20 years — isn’t a great solution, as it falls short of the total $27 million request and it forces St. Paul to borrow construction money and paying interest on the bonds.

The Saints and the city have proposed a $54-million, 7,000-seat ballpark in downtown St. Paul at the Diamond Products site, off Broadway Street across from the Farmers’ Market. If funded by the Legislature this session, we could see a new Saints ballpark by 2014; if not, the opening could be delayed until 2016.

The session is scheduled to end early next week. Expect a flurry of activity on a Saints ballpark — as part of larger negotiations — before that.

RELATED STORIES: Saints ballpark bill suffers setback in state SenateSt. Paul close to acquiring land for new Saints ballparkSaints ballpark funding passes hurdleSaints ballpark funding part of state bonding bill


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