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St. Paul still opposes alternate proposal for Lowertown ballpark that would keep existing building

Bill Hosko, the downtown St. Paul art gallery owner who’s run for city office in the past, has long been pushing an alternate plan for the Lowertown Saints ballpark.

Instead of tearing down the old Gillette building to clear land for the ball field, he suggests that, for the same cost, the city could keep part of the building for an amphitheater and build the ballpark alongside.

City officials say it just won’t work. (See more below.)

But Hosko says such a ballpark-amphitheater combination could also lead to “a year-round activity center for the City that can perhaps include the Minnesota Artisan Center, Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum and Minnesota Velodrome cycling center.”

His plan is outlined in a YouTube video.

With Gov. Mark Dayton planning to announce Thursday the winning projects for a state-wide bonding fund — and the St. Paul ballpark expected to be one of the winners with $27 million in state money — Hosko has renewed his appeal. He wants people to call Mayor Chris Coleman to ask for more citizen input in the final design decision.

Hosko says in an email appeal that if St. Paul gets the bonding money he remains “hopeful that the people of Minnesota’s Capital City will then see more openness from Mayor Coleman and his gutsy initiation of an open, honest, city-wide debate on this issue.”

City officials responded that they’ve considered, and rejected, Hosko’s plan.

“It’s important to note we took his proposal very seriously,” says spokesman Joe Campbell.

He includes the letter that Parks Director Mike Hahm sent in March to Hosko that politely says: Thanks, but no thanks.

In the letter, Hahm says:

“Without a corresponding comprehensive site and financial analysis, too many variables remain, making it too risky for the City to support pursuing your concept at this time.

“We have worked hard over the last three years to develop a comprehensive Regional Ballpark legislative request and budget that is reflective of a detailed site analysis and various ballpark-driven needs. This process has been lengthy and very involved, and based on this due diligence, we have great confidence that our plan can be implemented to meet the various ballpark needs, while fitting within the very tight site geography and project budget.

“The potential risk to the overall project is too great for offering an alternate concept that hasn’t been fully analyzed for potential site and budget implications. Jeopardizing this project would result in not only a significant loss of economic development opportunities for the City of Saint Paul, but it would directly affect the thousands of amateur ball-players from around the region that would have called this ballpark home in the future.”

Hosko, though, says a better concept is worth a little extra time and study.

“Allowing the public to help determine the best development scenario need not be drawn out nor difficult,” Hosko wrote this week.

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