St. Paul Receives $25M in State Funds for Saints Ballpark

The project received the largest portion of $47.5 million in capital grants just awarded by the state; among other high-profile projects, the Metropolitan Council received just $2 million of the $14 million it requested for the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail line.

The St. Paul Saints have scored a major victory and are poised for a new home in the city’s Lowertown neighborhood.
Governor Mark Dayton on Thursday announced the award of $25 million, $2 million short of what the City of St. Paul requested, for the building of a new, $54 million stadium for the minor league baseball team.
The ballpark project received the largest portion of $47.5 million in state money that’s being doled out as part of a $496 million bonding bill that Dayton signed in June.
Competition for the funds was fierce. Ninety projects from across the state applied for a portion of the money, which was earmarked for unspecified economic development projects. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) on Monday released a list of 37 finalists, assigning a numerical score to each. The scores took 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. The rankings essentially served as a recommendation to Dayton, who ultimately chose which projects to fund.
The Saints ballpark received 77 out of 100 possible points—the highest score among the 12 Twin Cities-area projects ranked.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman called the award for the Saints ballpark “a defining moment for our city.”
“After years of dedication and advocacy, we are about to bring baseball into downtown St. Paul,” Coleman said in a prepared statement. “This is a huge day for the City of St. Paul and our state. I want to thank Governor Dayton for his support and DEED for recognizing the value of this ballpark. Both our legislative delegation and the St. Paul business community saw the big picture and understood the potential of this project.”
In total, nine projects will receive a portion of the state funds, and DEED said that they will collectively “put an estimated 2,000 Minnesotans to work on projects of regional and statewide significance.” One big winner is Litchfield, which will receive $2.5 million for a wastewater improvement project. DEED awarded 99 points to that proposal—the highest score among the 13 ranked projects in Minnesota’s southern region.  And Duluth will receive $8.5 million, $1.5 million short of its requested sum, for a downtown development and public parking ramp; DEED gave that proposal 92 points, the most among the 12 ranked projects in Minnesota’s northern region.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Council received $2 million, much less than the $14 million it requested, for the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail line—which would run between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. DEED awarded that project 24 out of 100 points, placing it last among the 12 metro-area projects that were rated.
Projects that sought funds but received none 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 says that its new 7,000-seat ballpark will create an estimated 500 jobs, attract 400,000 people to downtown St. Paul annually, and generate an economic impact of $10 million each year. In addition to serving as a new home for the Saints, the new stadium will host statewide youth and amateur sporting events.
St. Paul has already taken tangible steps toward building a new ballpark: The St. Paul Port Authority bought the old Gillette/Diamond Products plant in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood, and the city coordinated a “land swap” deal, through which it provided the site of the Saints’ Midway Stadium in exchange for that property, where it plans to build the new ballpark.
Selected projects must provide matching dollars for any state funding they receive. The city previously agreed to contribute $17 million toward the project, and the Saints agreed to pay the remaining $10 million of the required match. However, given that the project received $25 million rather than the $27 million sought, the parties will have to come up with another $2 million.
When asked which party would cover that cost, St. Paul spokeswoman Clarise Tushie-Lessard said she was unable to provide specifics but told Twin Cities Business: “We’re going to look back at the financing plan, we’re going to sharpen our pencils, and we’re going to build the ballpark.”
The city said Thursday that it will soon begin the process of hiring contractors and start preparing to clean up the site of the new stadium. Tushie-Lessard said that construction will begin in spring 2013, and the first ball game is expected to take place in spring 2015.

To see the list of all nine projects that received a portion of the $47.5 million in state funds, click here.
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.