St. Paul Saints move one step closer to building Veeck-land in Lowertown

Categories: Sports
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With a land purchase agreement in place, a DEED grant is all that stands between the Saints and a new Lowertown ballpark.
Throughout the spring, we've chronicled the Vikings' efforts to secure public funding for a new football stadium, which we've dubbed Zygi-land.

With the legislature recently approving a funding plan for the nearly $1 billion Metrodome-site stadium, it appears the Vikes' effort will pay dividends. And now it looks like they might not be the only professional team in town to receive approval for a new facility.

Yesterday, the St. Paul Port Authority announced it has signed a $1.85 million purchase-and-sale agreement for an empty Lowertown warehouse eyed as the site of a new St. Paul Saints stadium. In return for the so-called Diamond Products/Gillette warehouse site, located between the farmers market and Lafayette Bridge, Midway Stadium will be turned over to the Port Authority and eventually torn down for industrial use.

In other words, the city and team took a big step toward realizing Mike Veeck-land.

Earlier this month, in our cover feature "Mike Veeck championing stadium for St. Paul Saints," we told you about co-owner Veeck's years-long push to replace the crumbling Midway Stadium. From the story:
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Midway Stadium. Fittingly, this shot captures a few of the crumbling ballpark's port-a-potties.
... Midway is quite nearly falling in on itself. A brief tour of the stadium's infrastructure reveals cramped concession areas, outsourced refrigeration, and massive blue tarps -- "diapers," as Food and Services Director Curtis Nachtsheim calls them -- to catch leakage. Fans miss multiple innings waiting in line to use the portable toilets, and Midway's isolated location prevents revenue spill-over when fans enter and exit the park.

"The St. Paul guys, the guys from the businesses downtown, said to me, 'Mike, we love you, but at Midway, we're not gonna buy a single suite, because it doesn't do anything for us,'" Mike says.

The players don't have it much better. The workout facilities consist of a single rusting stationary bike. The lockers are 1982 originals. The trainer's bed is cracked and crusting. Because Midway was originally constructed on a landfill, center field is perpetually sinking -- so much so that the city must re-level it every six years.
The new, approximately $50 million Lowertown stadium would seat over 7,000, feature open artist space, and maintain the same prices found at Midway. 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.
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Specifically, the Saints are hoping the Department of Employment and Economic Development will come through with a $27 million dollar grant to fund the non-city and non-team portion of the project. But given that the entire DEED grant pool for this year is only $47.5 million, it isn't a foregone conclusion the Saints will get everything they're hoping for -- Mankato wants to expand its civic center with a DEED grant, and the Metropolitan Council is expected to ask DEED for engineering funds to design the Southwest Light Rail Transit line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.

But if the Vikings' stadium drive taught us anything, it's that these things are never easy. And officials, including St. Paul Port Authority President Louis Jambois, are confident the state will come through this summer with a grant covering half of the Veeck-land project cost.

"No project can start until we own the property. And so buying this property is a very good card to play as we proceed forward with a competitive grant application," Jambois told MPR. "It should put our project ahead of perhaps several others when applications are submitted."

See also:
-- New Saints ballpark highlights Governor Dayton's bonding proposal
-- FEATURE: Mike Veeck championing stadium for St. Paul Saints

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