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No reason to worry about gap in Saints ballpark financing — yet

New St. Paul Saints ballpark

City officials are nervous about a $2-million “shortfall” in funding for a new St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) ballpark, but such hand-wringing is just silly, silly talks from folks inexperienced in building ballparks.

The issue: only $52 million has been allocated by the state, city and the Saints for the ballpark, demolition work on the aite (which includes some brownfield remediation) and other site work. (The original budget for the project was $54 million, but the state allocated only $25 million instead of the requested $27 million. Only $25 million.) Now, $52 million is a lot of money for this sort of thing, to be blunt: these days you don’t see many ballpark projects (especially on the indy level) exceed $50 million outside of Triple-A facilities. (To put it into perspective: the downtown El Paso Triple-A ballpark project will cost less even though it includes the demolition of City Hall, and a comparably sized ballpark in Wilmington, N.C., is currently budgeted at $37 million, including $6 million for the land.)

To put this into perspective: $2 million is 3.7 percent of the total project. Any building project that cannot withstand a 3.7 percent adjustment is monumentally mismanaged.

So don’t let any St. Paul city official tell you there’s not enough money to build this ballpark; there is more than enough, especially for an independent-baseball facilities that doesn’t need to meet N.A. standards. Forget the drama in the St. Paul Pioneer Press headline (Ballpark’s $2 million shortfall will be hard to fill”), with city officials just wringing their hands over the lack of money on what’s already one of the best-funded ballpark projects in years. This is stupid talk. We have no ballpark design yet, no budget for remediation and site prep. (Indeed, it’s looking like the remediation costs will come in right where everyone expected, with no surprises in early testing.) Maybe it’s the lack of ballpark experience from the design/build team — Ryan, AECOM, Julie Snow Architects — or a lack of fiscal responsibility in St. Paul City Hall, but to hear talk that $52 million isn’t enough to build an independent-baseball ballpark where the city already owns the land is very, very silly.

Image courtesy St. Paul Saints.

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