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First look: Proposed St. Paul Saints ballpark

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New Saints ballpark

The St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) will be taking another run at state funding for a new downtown ballpark, this time with a design of sorts in hand and a game plan that includes lots of support from the local business community.

Gone is Mike Veeck's vision of a ballpark oriented to the west -- the better for fans to stare into the sun. Instead, the Saints are pushing a traditional orientation (third-base line running south-north) with a preliminary modern design from local firm Julie Snow Architects along with the wooing of the local business community. (The wooing begins tonight with cocktails at a downtown St. Paul hotel.) Previously the Saints had put their efforts in the hands of lobbyists and city officials; this time they're going more on their own, prepping a run at the 2011 session of the State Legislature.

Which is a smart move.

Here's the proposal: the city would build a 7,500-seat ballpark in downtown St. Paul's Lowertown area, on the site of a former Gillette warehouse across the street from the Farmer's Market. It's a gorgeous site; Lowertown is a trendy area right now and becoming a major hotspot in the Twin Cities. The state would spend $25 million on the facility, with the Saints and city coming up with $20 million more.

At that price -- $45 million -- we're not talking about a bare-boned facility.

One thing is for certain: the Saints will need more than lip service from city leaders to gain state funding. When the city of St. Paul submitted its bonding priorities to the State Legislature during the 2010 session, ballpark funding was #4 on the list. In general, the state doesn't go past the first few items on a bonding-request list for funding, and that low ranking was certainly a factor in the state passing on any funding at all -- not even planning money. (Some intra-St. Paul politics involving sports spending vs. the arts didn't help matters, either.) A few things are in the Saints' favor this upcoming session: a bill funding a new Minnesota Vikings stadium is sure to be discussed and passed, and including funding for a new Saints ballpark in that proposal would certainly salve the egos of St. Paul legislators.

Images courtesy of the St. Paul Saints.

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