New Saints ballpark highlights Governor Dayton's bonding proposal

A rendering of the Saints' proposed Lowertown ballpark. The project is one of many in Gov. Dayton's $775 million bonding proposal.
A rendering of the Saints' proposed Lowertown ballpark. The project is one of many in Gov. Dayton's $775 million bonding proposal.

It isn't $500 million for a new Vikings stadium, but today, Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a bonding bill that would allot $27 in public funds for a new St. Paul Saints ballpark.

The $50 million ballpark would be located in the Lowertown area of downtown St. Paul between the farmers market and the Lafayette Bridge. St. Paul would spend about $13 million in site preparation and land acquisition, with the Saints kicking in about $10 million and the rest coming from the state's coffers.

In a statement, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman -- who has gone on the record as saying he is not a fan of using Ramsey County dollars to subsidize a Vikings stadium in Arden Hills -- said he supports the Lowertown ballpark.

"This ballpark will help St. Paul build a regional center for amateur baseball, spur economic development in the area, and will further revitalize St. Paul's Lowertown district," he said.

In an editorial that ran yesterday, the Pioneer Press strongly supports the project, noting that the 7,000-seat ballpark "would put baseball at each end of the Central Corridor light rail line." The PiPress cites "projections" envisioning that the project would create 225 construction jobs, 240 full-time and seasonal jobs, and $10 million in economic growth for the area, prompted by 400,000 visitors.

The PiPress editorial board writes:

As we've maintained on these pages, it's easier to see the public purpose for a ballpark that would serve a broad spectrum of amateur groups most of the time, and a minor league baseball team some of the time than for a billion-dollar football stadium. The proposal does just what a traditional, effective bonding project should: It leverages public dollars to help build a public facility that will drive economic development in an area that's primed and ready to produce. And its benefits go beyond St. Paul, with the facility serving as a home for amateur baseball fans and families throughout the region and statewide.

The Saints currently play at 29-year-old Midway stadium, which is known for its uneven playing surface, port-a-potties, and former owner Mike Veeck's declaration that it is "The ugliest ballpark in America!"

Predictably, Republican legislators aren't as eager to build a new Saints ballpark as Dayton, Coleman, or the PiPress. MPR quotes House Speaker Kurt Zellers as saying "in these economic times, a $775 million bonding bill that puts local spending on par with core infrastructure is unwise and ill-advise." New House Speaker Dave Senjem suggested Dayton's proposal highlights a philosophical difference between free-spending Democrats and fiscally conservative Republicans.

Dayton's bonding proposal will be taken up by the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House when the 2012 legislative session begins a week from today.

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