Duluth officials say they’ll continue seeking state funds for a renovation of the WPA-era Wade Stadium, home of the Duluth Huskies (summer collegiate; Northwoods League).
Wade Stadium is in need of repairs and upgrades. The Huskies and Duluth officials have put forth a $8.1 million renovation plan, one that keeps the historic nature of the ballpark while upgrading the mechanicals and overhauling fan spaces. For the fans, a new parking-lot-side entry would be added, concessions would be overhauled, and theater-style seats would replace the metal bleachers behind home plate. New lights, a new roof and a scoreboard would be added. The current picnic area would be overhauled. New artificial turf would be installed. And a new concessions area would be placed beyond left field to serve the many softball players at the fields adjacent to the ballpark.
The city is seeking state assistance to cover half the cost of renovation, and they’re eying the same pot of money the St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) want to tap for their new-ballpark effort: a $50-million “business development through capital project grant program” administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). There were several local projects shut out of the bonding bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature in the recently completed 2012 session, and officials associated with most of them are expected to apply for a chunk of the $50-million pot, which will be administered by the Dayton administration. St. Paul officials are confident of scoring Saints ballpark aid from this fund. Whether DEED will devote more than half of the fund — the city is seeking $27 million from the state, covering half the cost of the $54-million ballpark — to a single project remains to be seen, or whether St. Paul officials can tap into other regional sources of funds (say, money from the regional Met Council to cover remediation efforts at the Lowertown brownfield site) to decrease the need for state funds.
All of this is to say that competition for the state funds will be fierce. On the plus side for Duluth: the requested amount is relatively small and will have a huge impact on one of the more historic buildings in the state, and the politics work out well for the proposal as well, as DEED will be pressured to distribute funds across the state. In addition, Gov. Dayton has spoken highly of the Wade Stadium renovation. On the minus side: $50 million doesn’t go as far as it used to.
Wade Stadium was constructed in 1940-1941 with city funds and money from the Works Progress Administration. It hosted professional baseball in the form of the original Northern League and was part of the relaunch of the independent Northern League 20 years ago.
RELATED STORIES: Duluth Huskies unveil renovation plan for Wade Stadium
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