Saints Ballpark Ranks High Among Finalists for $47M in State Funding

The state assigned scores to 37 projects vying for a portion of the funds, and Governor Mark Dayton is expected to make a final determination about the winners later this week.

A new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints minor-league baseball team is the top metro-area finalist for $47.5 million in state bonding money, based on scores assigned by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), which is doling out the funding.
 
Ninety projects from across the state have been vying for a portion of the money, which was earmarked for unspecified economic development projects in Minnesota. The funding is part of a $496 million bonding bill that Governor Mark Dayton signed in June.
 
DEED on Monday released a list of 37 finalists, assigning a numerical score to each. The scores take into account factors including project readiness, the number of jobs they would create, their regional impact, and other benefits they would provide to the public.
 
Although the DEED rankings will serve as a recommendation, they do not provide funding guarantees. The scores are being sent to Governor Mark Dayton, and he’s expected to make a decision this week about which projects will receive money.
 
The Saints ballpark, which seeks $27 million, received 77 out of 100 possible points—the highest score among the 12 Twin Cities-area projects ranked.
 
“We’re thankful that those who have evaluated the applications believe in the project as much as we always have, and we look forward to the governor’s announcement later this week,” Joe Campbell, a spokesman for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, told the Pioneer Press.
 
A $2.5 million wastewater improvement project in Litchfield received 99 points—the highest score among the 13 ranked projects in Minnesota’s southern region. Ranking first among the 12 ranked projects in Minnesota’s northern region was a $10 million request for a downtown development and public parking ramp in Duluth.
 
Meanwhile, a $25 million request for grant funds to break ground on a new Mayo Civic Center in Rochester received 72 out of 100 points, ranking it sixth among projects in the southern region of the state.
 
“We will wait to see what the final list looks like,” John Wade, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, told the Star Tribune in reaction to the project’s ranking. Wade, who said the project is shovel-ready, reportedly hopes that the new civic center will turn the city into a hub for medical conventions, boost the hotel and service industries, and funnel millions of dollars into the region’s economy.
 
Several notable projects either weren’t ranked or received lower scores than their advocates expected. A Metropolitan Council request for $14 million for the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail line—which would run between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie—received 24 out of 100 points, placing it last among the 12 metro-area projects that were rated.
 
“I would say we’re both surprised and disappointed that the evaluation was as low as it was,” Met Council Chair Sue Haigh told the Pioneer Press, declining to say whether a construction timeline for the project would need to be rethought. “It’s a project that is really critical to job growth in the region . . . and has strong support from the business community.”
 
The 53 projects that weren’t ranked include a $25 million redesign of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis and $5.9 million for Ramsey County to acquire and clean up blighted Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant property in Arden Hills.
 
St. Paul has already taken tangible steps toward building a new Saints ballpark: The St. Paul Port Authority bought the old Gillette/Diamond Products plant in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood, and the city is coordinating a “land swap” deal, through which it would provide the site of the Saints’ Midway Stadium in exchange for that property, where it hopes to build the new ballpark.

St. Paul says that the new $54 million stadium would create an estimated 500 jobs, attract 400,000 people to downtown St. Paul annually, and generate an economic impact of $10 million each year. The land-swap deal with the Port Authority could also lead to more jobs, as the Port Authority has indicated it wants to redevelop the Midway Stadium site for industrial use.

Selected projects must provide matching dollars for any state funding they receive. If the city receives state funding, it will contribute $17 million toward the project, and the Saints would pay the remaining $10 million of the required match.

To see the scores assigned to various projects, and the full list of those that weren’t scored, click here.
 
Twin Cities Business recently explored the Saints’ evolution, business model, and funding request for a new stadium. To read that story, click here.

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