The St. Paul Saints were the big winners of Thursday's capital grants announced by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton. The city of St. Paul was awarded $25 million of the $27 million it requested for a new Saints ballpark.
Nearly 100 applications were submitted, but only 11 were awarded a piece of the $47.5-million pool of bonding money. Dayton had the final say on which projects would receive the legislature-approved funding.
The plan is to break ground near the Farmer's Market when spring comes. Opening Day is set for spring of 2015. The city and the team will cover the rest of the cost of the $54-million sporting facility.
The ballpark will be used for amateur baseball, and it is expected to employ about 500 people while bringing in hundreds of thousands in revenue to the area each year.
MINNESOTA BONDING MONEY BREAKDOWN
Getting ahead of anticipated criticism, Dayton said there was definitely no deal to set aside grant money for a Saints stadium in exchange for St. Paul lawmakers' votes on a new Vikings stadium.
"I seriously disagree with anyone who says this is political," he said.
Still, those who got cut out of the grant consideration are already crying foul. A total of 81 grant requests were denied -- and lawmakers are already sounding off.
"Zero DEED dollars coming to the Range. Really glad we ALL voted 4 that Vikes stadium. I guess only the cities needs economic development," Democratic Rep. Carly Melin tweeted.
St. Cloud, Mankato and Rochester had all bid for help building new civic centers, and Senate Majority Leader David Senjem mused on whether the ballpark should have trumped those efforts.
"I'm not going to be disrespectful of a ballpark you use four months a year, but it's a seasonal thing versus a year-round facility," he commented.
Dayton insists that the projects were selected on criteria that included jobs, regional impact and private investment. He says the new stadium for the Saints fit the bill.
"To me, these are stadiums -- yes, but they're about downtown revitalization for Minneapolis and St. Paul," he said.