What St. Paul DFLers hope to gain from stadium votes

It was an uncharacteristic vote, DFL Sen. Sandy Pappas concedes: hers was one of the green “Y”s on the tally board when the Vikings stadium bill came up late last night.

“I have to tell you that I have never voted for a bill before for a state subsidy of professional sports stadiums,” Pappas said today. “So it was a big step for me to do that.”

But she says she had good reason. “There were certain things we needed to get for St. Paul,” Pappas said.

The city of St. Paul wants help building a new St. Paul Saints stadium, and city is eying $47.5 million in the bonding bill, set to be granted by the Department of Employment and Economic Development for renovation and construction around the state.

“The governor has told us he would look favorably on that project. And we were also looking for some parity with Target Center. We hope that there’s some language in the bill to look at joint marketing or joint operational options.”

There is also $2.7 million annually for St. Paul in the stadium bill, for 20 years, to pay off debt on the city’s RiverCentre convention center.

“We still have an issue with the X (the Xcel Energy Center), because we still need (state) loan forgiveness,” Pappas said. “But our request for loan forgiveness was out three years, not in this biennieum, so we just have to come back and try for that next year.”

Pappas wasn’t alone. Three of the four-member St. Paul delegation in the Senate voted yes, including Dick Cohen and John Harrington. Five of the eight members in the House delegation also voted green.

And that wasn’t the only East Metro maneuvering on the stadium field.

Outgoing DFL Sen. Mary Jo McGuire offered a last-minute amendment to the stadium bill looking for money to clean up the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills. That’s where the Vikings had an agreement with Ramsey county to build last year.

The county has a limited-time offer (through Sept.) from the federal government to buy a nearly 500 acre parcel for basically what it will cost to clean it up — $28.5 million. The DEED money is a matching grant, so the county would have to come up with half of that. (McGuire might someday have a hand in that, too. Following her departure from the Legislature after being paired with DFLer John Marty in redistricting, McGuire is running to replace outgoing Ramsey County commissioner Jan Parker.)

“I know there’s a lot of people that are going for the DEED money. It’s not a guarantee. It’s clearly not a sure thing,” McGuire said. “A lot of people are eying that DEED money.”

The Senate turned down McGuire’s effort, and McGuire posted a red “N” on the stadium bill a few hours later. “I’ve been a pretty consistent No on the stadium for a lot of personal reasons… I think the bill is not what it should be.”

Was she tempted to follow her neighbors’ example?

“I respect the decision of my colleagues,” McGuire said. “When there’s something that’s going to happen, and there’s not a way to stop it, then you do what you can to get what’s needed in that bill.”

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