It’s more than a little premature, but St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has informed the state his city will request $27 million for a new St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) ballpark.
Why premature? The state hasn’t even put together the criteria for how the money will be allocated. The Minnesota Legislature, in making the money available in its 2012 bonding bill, merely specified that $47.5 million be allocated locally for economic-development projects. It’s up to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to map out criteria for deciding where the money goes — and that criteria won’t be set until next month at the earliest. So for Coleman to send a letter to the state requesting the money is wildly premature and ultimately meaningless. 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.
The Saints and St. Paul will have a lot of competition for the money: the city of Duluth is expected to request $4 million for Wade Stadium upgrades, while other cities and regional bodies will seek state money for convention-center upgrades and transit planning.
Still, there’s a lot of optimism about the Saints ballpark project receiving state funding. First, the $54-million Saints ballpark proposal also includes cleanup of a brownfield site: the former Diamond Products site, off Broadway Street across from the Farmers’ Market. Second, the state wouldn’t be fully funding the 7,000-seat ballpark: the Saints and the city would be funding at least half of the construction and remediation costs, so there’s a definite economic-impact argument. Third, it was Gov. Mark Dayton who originally requested the money — and the decision on funding would come from a department controlled by the executive branch.
If funded in time, the 7,000-seat ballpark could be open for the 2014 season.
Image courtesy of the St. Paul Saints.
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