Land Secured for Saints Stadium; City Seeks State Funding

The St. Paul Port Authority is buying a property in downtown St. Paul on which the city wants to build a new baseball stadium—but the city is still seeking money from the state.

A recent land deal has paved the way for a new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team, but the city is still vying for state funds to make the project a reality.

The city on Tuesday announced that the St. Paul Port Authority has signed a purchase agreement for a property in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood, which is currently occupied by a vacant Diamond Products warehouse. The Port Authority will pay $1.85 million for the site, and it expects to close the deal on July 31.

The city and the Port Authority are coordinating a “land swap” deal, through which the city would provide the site of the Saints’ Midway Stadium in exchange for the Diamond Products property, which is located near the corner of Prince Street and Broadway Street.

The Saints have been asking legislators for a new ballpark for several years. The $496 million bonding bill signed by Governor Mark Dayton earlier this month did not allocate money for a new Saints stadium—but it did include $47 million for unnamed economic development projects in Minnesota, and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is actively pursuing a portion of those funds for the stadium.

Coleman on Monday sent a letter to Mark Phillips, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), asking for a $27 million grant for the $54 million ballpark project.

Joe Campbell, director of communications at Coleman’s office, told Twin Cities Business on Wednesday that if the state funds are granted, the Saints would contribute $10 million, and the city would pay $17 million to cover the remaining costs.

In his letter, Coleman wrote that the ballpark project is “shovel-ready.” He said that a final financing plan will go before the City Council in a few weeks, and based on discussions with “several construction companies,” he is “confident that a new Lowertown ballpark will be open in May 2014,” in time for the Saints’ home opener.

When asked how the city will proceed if it does not receive the state funding, Campbell said: “We have no plan B until we hear from DEED.”

The city claims that the new stadium would attract 400,000 people to downtown St. Paul annually and generate an economic impact of $10 million each year. The city also said that the ballpark, which would host youth and amateur sporting events in addition to Saints games, would create an estimated 500 jobs.

Port Authority President Louis Jambois said in a statement that the land-swap deal will also create jobs at the site of Midway Stadium on Energy Park Drive, which he described as “a key industrial corridor with highly sought-after railway access.” The Port Authority is interested in converting the property for industrial use.

The ballpark project is likely to face competition from other projects vying for a portion of the state’s unallocated funds. For example, the Metropolitan Council has been seeking state funding for the proposed Southwest Corridor Light Rail line, which would run between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. Like the Saints ballpark, that project was left out of the recently passed bonding bill.