St. Paul must fill $2M hole in ballpark budget

The cheers have died down. Now the pencils must be sharpened.

Before St. Paul can build a new ballpark for the minor league Saints baseball team, it needs to plug a $2 million hole in the project’s budget.

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An architect’s rendering of the ballpark. (Image Courtesy of St. Paul)

Gov. Mark Dayton awarded the proposal $25 million from a grant program designed to spur job creation. That made St. Paul the biggest winner by far in the statewide sweepstakes, but the grant fell short of the $27 million the city sought.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to figure out how to deal with this,” St. Paul Finance Director Todd Hurley said.

Hurley has already shaken virtually every couch cushion in the city budget to come up with the $17 million dollars St. Paul already committed to the project. He tapped seven different funding streams including riverfront revitalization money and leftover sales tax proceeds. He even scraped $500,000 out of a fund for sewer improvements.

“Either we need to figure out as a team if we are going to be able to find an additional $2 million within the city, or we’re going to have to go back to the drawing table, sharpen our pencils, and figure out how to value-engineer $2 million out of the project,” Hurley said, “or some combination of both.”

The ballpark’s size has already been scaled back to 7,000 seats from 7,500 since it was first proposed several years ago, and the Saints don’t want to see any further “value-engineering.”

“I think once you start cutting, you’re making a mistake,” owner Mike Veeck said. “We want to build something that’s really exceptional and really beautiful and will stand the test of time.”

The Saints have agreed to contribute $10 million toward the project, a figure Veeck called “extraordinary” for a minor league team, but “if we have to stretch a little, we’ll stretch,” he said.

Veeck pointed out that the ballpark’s location, visible from both I-94 and the Central Corridor Light Rail line, make it attractive for advertisers, and he said those revenues could help plug the $2 million hole.