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St. Paul City Council approves extra money for Saints ballpark

Extra costs blamed on polluted soil and fancier design will be picked up by city, but council wasn’t too happy about it.

To no one’s surprise, the St. Paul City Council has agreed to pump millions more into the downtown Saints ballpark.

But the council members weren’t happy about it. Council member Dan Bostrom was quoted in the Pioneer Press:

“Please don’t come back to us and ask for another dime on this project. We’ve been bled enough on this deal.”

The price of the project in downtown’s Lowertown neighborhood jumped from $54 million to $63 million before the walls of the old Gillette factory came tumbling down. Polluted ground was worse than expected, and they decided to add some extras to the project to make it a worthy minor league park.

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The council agreed to an “internal city loan” Wednesday, to cover $6 million of the extra costs. There was much certainty from city officials that the money will be repaid by getting outside remediation grants from other government entities.

Another $2 million of the extra cost will come from a state grant for St. Paul sports facilities that was the result of a legislative handout during the Vikings stadium negotiations, to give the Capitol city a little something after the stadium went to Minneapolis.

And the Saints minor league baseball team has agreed to kick in $1 million more, although it’s not clear when or where that contribution will arrive. The Saints are already putting in $10 million, but most of that will be paid off through rents and naming rights and other new revenue that will come to them after the ballpark is up.

The city is negotiating the lease with the Saints which should clear up some of the questions about the team’s payments and what percentage the city will get if the team is sold in the next seven years.

The ballpark has been a major project for Mayor Chris Coleman, who pushed very hard to get state financing for the project and to find ways to make up for the budget overruns.

Besides the financing concerns, some nearby residents have complained that they’re losing parking because of the project.

The ballpark will be ready for play in 2015, and will host amateur baseball games in addition to the Saints season.