St. Paul gives go-ahead to Saints stadium, closes funding gap

Stadium opponent Greg Copeland urged the City Council to give up on a Lowertown Ballpark plan and later said he’d make an effort to put the plan before voters. (MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)
  1. Listen Saints stadium approved amidst opposition

    July 25, 2013 Tim Nelson reports

The St. Paul City Council reluctantly signed off on a more expensive deal for the Lowertown ballpark tonight.  The newly-approved plan costs 16 percent more than the stadium’s initial estimate.

The city has to pick up most of the nearly $9 million cost overrun, with a small contribution from the St. Paul Saints, the minor league baseball team that will move to Lowertown from Midway stadium near the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The deal will require the city to borrow and pay back $17 million in stadium bonds.

“We’ve been bled enough on this deal,” said Ward 6 council member Dan Bostrom.

But he joined five colleagues in the unanimous vote for the revised terms of the stadium deal, clearing the way for the city to sell the bonds and for construction to start on the 7,000 seat ballpark. It’s expected to open in 2015.

Newly appointed council member Nick Khaliq said his recent experience working in City Hall and downtown bolstered the argument for a new stadium in his mind.

Nick Khaliq
(MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)

“One of the most compelling things that struck me, is that downtown St. Paul is in a little bit of trouble. Macy’s closed. And you know, we need a shot in the arm… Looking at the possible pay-off, and I think it’s a good chance, these people know their business, that this would be a shot for the city of St. Paul. And hopefully it will encourage others to invest downtown, which would spread out into the community.”

The approval came after a two-hour long public hearing that featured nearly a dozen opponents to the plan, laying out a wide-ranging case against the deal.

“We have a police lab that’s a disgrace, and a health inspection department that’s being taken over by the state,” said Tom Goldstein. “Oppose this amendment. Get out in the community and talk to citizens and figure out what the city’s priorities should be. This isn’t one of them.”

Residents around the site of the proposed stadium, near the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, expressed fears that the tailgating, party atmosphere at Midway stadium couldn’t be successfully transplanted downtown — and maybe shouldn’t be.

Justin Busch told the council the stadium push was an effort to “turn Lowertown into the sports and drinking district of St. Paul,” and that threatened previous efforts to make it an arts district. He also objected to subsidizing the Saints: “Every resident of Lowertown, every resident of St. Paul knows, that there is no impact so great, no cost so high that the city council will weary of shoveling public money into what are essentially private pockets for this.”

Even council members wondered whether the plan would work. Bostrom suggested the Saints’ initial success in the city’s Midway district in the early 1990s came because the team offered outdoor baseball, in contrast to the Twins, who played in the Metrodome at the time.

He asked Parks and Recreation director Mike Hahm if the city was betting on a losing proposition, now that Target Field sits on the other end of the Green Line light rail.

“Is the traffic going to go both ways on the light rail, or is if its all going to head over there, and we’re just going to be sitting here with this thing,” Bostrom said. “That’s what really troubles me about this thing.”

In the end, though, council members took assurances from the administration of Mayor Chris Coleman that there weren’t any more surprises looming in the project and there were enough safeguards to protect taxpayers financially, at least for the short term, if the baseball team failed. They also got assurances from the parks director that the city wasn’t going to shutter any neighborhood recreation centers while paying for a new pro sports venue.

Hahm says the council’s approval clears the way for final design work and negotiation of a final construction contract and guaranteed cost with Ryan Cos., the company building the stadium. He said demolition of the Diamond Products factory at the site should be finished in about four months, and some construction could start by the end of the year.

  • whitedoggie44

    Yes, free speech is free speech despite the whinning from the left. As much as the democrats would love to control speech, protecting this right is fundamental to our freedom to express our displeasure with the political class. One more point, Harry Reid is an idiot.

    • JQP

      free speech … is not inhibited by spending limits at all , under any circumstances. you can say whatever you like…

      the idea that your right to speak extends to your ability to afford the biggest megaphone is utter rubbish.

      if your freely spoken message is all that good… why do you have to pay to get it out?

      • whitedoggie44

        If speech is open and free, please be my guest to speak at an Ivy League university about the benefits of NYC stop and frisk and let’s see if the students let you speak freely.

        • Joe

          The students should be frisked before attending such a speech depending on what color they are, that will weed out the rowdy ones!

          • whitedoggie44

            Your a moron

    • kevins

      Your post is free. Your speech is also. Your biases are priceless.

  • PaulJ

    You can’t have the gov’t infringing on political speech. On the other hand; people in gov’t, or in the running, shouldn’t be allowed accept money. Let those people find a way besides mindless TV advertisements to support voter decision making.

  • Joe

    No. I’m sick of the political-industrial complex of the past few election cycles. Just wait until political call center operations are outsourced to India…

  • JQP

    Under the current system … no.
    However… IF
    – no ad/message ( by anyone ) can mention or imply or impugn another politician or political entity by name, image or description.
    – all adds may only mention/display the image, picture, positions, ideas, purposes of the sponsoring entity.
    – every sponsoring entity must, in the item distributed ( pamphlet, TV add, internet item, blog, post, tweet, email, brochure, mailing, speech, … ) name a specific individual human person who is legally responsible for the content. and will personally go to prison or pay fines if the content is found lacking.

    Time to make humans responsible for the rubbish they are putting out on the curb.

  • kevins

    I am frequently ambivalent about politics, government and so on. Having lived through the Nixon years, I know that hese things can be sinner and saint at the same time. The main difficulty I have with the money equals free speech concept is that money is also power, and a citizen would have to be naive to assume power is always used in a kind, healthy and just way. I vote because it is my responsibility, and my opinion is the only thing that power cannot take from me. I am increasingly wary of how money is used to promote candidates and issues in a way that is inherently dishonest. That being said, I think that it is also the obligation of the citizen to be an informed voter (not simply to vote), which can neutralize the cancerous manipulativeness of money as a tool for powerful entities to get what they desire. Unfortunately, I believe that there are many diligent voters easliy convinced that well funded (powerful) mesages are truth (eg: taking money from schools until the next bienium is good for us), and thus enable the economically powerful to become the politically powerful. As for the SC’s stance on all of this, I will never accept the logic that a corporation is a person.

  • marca

    Equating speech with money allows some to “speak” in many districts in which they are not voters. I believe that this concentrates political power in a way the Founding Fathers would never have considered democratic. We have seen the Koch brothers intervene in local elections, even in small towns, in areas in which they have never lived. This has nothing to do with the free speech which the Founding Fathers wanted to protect.

    • Jamie

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that you’re all for Michael Bloomberg spending millions through Moms Demand Action in towns where he’s never lived. Please correct me if I’m mistaken.

      • Joe

        He should change his name to Michael Momberg!

  • Joe

    I like the irony of Al Franken asking for money to help fight Citizens United. Also, he has very little power as a Senator to do anything about it. Good for him though I guess? Supposedly it attracts “small” donors…

  • Joe

    Some British news agencies (amongst others I’m sure) have begun describing America as an oligarchy, but hey, at least we’re better than those darn Commies in Russia at it!

  • Rich in Duluth

    No, spending limits should be in force. This does not limit free speech, it limits the wealthy or organizations with lots of money from dominating a campaign and drowning out opposition views. In fact, I would prefer publically financed campaigns and requiring the media to give equal time to all significant candidates.