We’re down to the wire at Midway Stadium, where the St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) will wrap up their tenure there with a final game tonight.
As a ballpark, Midway Stadium was cheaply built and not blessed with an abundance of amenities. Originally called Municipal Stadium, it opened after St. Paul tore down the previous Midway Stadium — a charming little piece of mid-century modern built to host the original American Association’s St. Paul Saints — to make room for a mixed-use development called Energy Park. The new Midway Stadium wasn’t much — a grandstand, a parking lot, some bleachers — and it was mostly an afterthought, designed to host high-school baseball and football as well as concerts.
But it was important as the birthplace of modern independent baseball, and over the years it was beloved by fans who embraced the rebel spirit and notable promotions. We’re now at a point in the evolution of the industry where entertainment is a prime part of an evening’s festivities at almost every ballpark, but in 1993, when Mike Veeck and Marv Goldklang set up shop in St. Paul, those were foreign concepts to a populace used to the Metrodome, indoor baseball and uneventful evenings.
I was part of the crowd that first season at Midway Stadium: the late Tom Montgomery, a St. Paul lawyer with outsized appetites and a keen sense of the absurd, bought a ticket booklet and demanded my presence at several games. We sat down the first-base line, stared into the sun for the first three innings while sitting on an uncomfortable metal bleacher, and had the times of our lives. Over the years, the Saints refined the Midway Stadium experience, but that renegade spirit never waned. Let’s hope some of that spirit makes its way to the team’s new downtown ballpark, set to open next season.
These won’t be the last events at the ballpark, which is slated to be demolished next year to make way for the sort of office/warehouse development that should have been there in the first place. (Midway Stadium is not set in the most scenic of locales unless light industrial is your thing.) One big event is still on the schedule: the Replacements will be playing their first hometown gig since 1993 at a Sept. 13 concert. The concert is long sold out, but tickets are available from our aftermarket service. That, too, will be my last hurrah at Midway Stadium. –Kevin Reichard
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