Peter Boehm has been fighting new-ballpark efforts by the St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) for more than a decade, and he’s back in action, arguing against a new downtown facility in a local paper.
He posted his reasoning at TwinCities.com, saying that spending $54 million on a new ballpark isn’t the best use of state development funds of $27 million. The Saints ballpark is one of many projects submitted to the state for funding via a $47.5 million administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. All in all, 90 municipalities requested some $288 million in public money. DEED staff is expected to have recommendations by the end of August, with Gov. Mark Dayton — who has backed both projects in the past — making the final decision. The Saints proposal is not the only ballpark project submitted: Duluth is requesting $4 million for Wade Stadium upgrades.
But boy, there are some very, very shoddy assumptions at play in his analysis. One is that the Saints won’t draw more fans at the new ballpark than the old, and that the number of no-shows to games will remain the same. While the total capacity of the proposed ballpark isn’t that much more than Midway Stadium, it will be configured much better than Midway; there are a lot of crappy seats down each line at Midway, and they’ll be gone at the new ballpark. Similarly, the new ballpark will have suites and upgraded party areas. To say that 400,000 visits to a new ballpark is unrealistic is itself an untenable proposal.
Boehm and crew have done a fairly effective job at opposing Saints ballpark proposals in the past. He raises a valid issue: he’s a member of a small group of fans who gather behind home plate at Saints games and have a fun social gathering. You’ll find this at a lot of ballparks, and in general these folks love the status quo and don’t want the hassle of change. But at some point a team needs to pull the trigger and move past the small group of acolytes to reach a larger audience — the sort of audience that will show up to a new downtown ballpark and not to the rickety old seats at Midway Stadium. No one, including Boehm, argues that Midway Stadium stay as is, but to spend $27 million on a new ballpark Midway — which really isn’t configure properly for
This time, he may be reaching: what the city is proposing cleans up a brownfield site (let’s face it: no one has been clamoring to develop the proposed Lowertown ballpark site), adds a business park to an area of town that would benefit from more jobs, and adds a major attraction to downtown St. Paul.
If funding is approved, the ballpark could open for the 2014 season.
RELATED STORIES: St. Paul approves Saints funding deal; up next, state funds; Saints, Huskies ballparks pitched for Minnesota state funds; St. Paul: We’ll request economic-development funds for new Saints ballpark; Affiliated ball in St. Paul? Don’t hold your breath; Duluth: We’ll continue seeking state fund for Wade Stadium renovations; Duluth Huskies unveil renovation plan for Wade Stadium; St. Paul officials confident in scoring state aid for Saints ballpark; Saints ballpark funding alive — but just barely; State aid for Saints ballpark coming down to the wire; Saints ballpark bill suffers setback in state Senate; St. Paul close to acquiring land for new Saints ballpark; Saints ballpark funding passes hurdle; Saints ballpark funding part of state bonding bill
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