St. Paul ballpark pitch leads state grant evaluations

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A St. Paul Saints game at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, Minn. Sunday, June 10, 2012. The city of St. Paul's proposal to build a new ballpark for the Saints is among the top proposals in line to receive state grant money.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

St. Paul's quest for funding a new baseball stadium, and projects in Duluth and Litchfield, lead the running for $47.5 million in state grant money available for local projects.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development posted online evaluations of the 90 applications it received for the Capital Projects Grant program.

The department eliminated more than half the projects after an initial screening. It grouped the remaining 37 applications into three regions — northern, southern and metro — and scored them on project readiness, job creation potential and several other criteria.

St. Paul's $27 million proposal to build a new downtown ballpark for the minor League St. Paul Saints had the highest score in the metro area, with 77 points. And Duluth leads the northern region, with its $10 million request to fund downtown development and build a public parking ramp.

In the southern region, Litchfield's application for $2.5 million to improve wastewater infrastructure got 99 out of 100 points, the highest score of any proposal.

Those three projects alone would gobble up all but $8 million in the fund.

Of the projects that received scores, the Metropolitan Council and Carver County ranked last, with only 24 points apiece. The Met Council wanted $14 million to go toward a light rail line through the southwest suburbs. Carver County wanted $1.3 million to fund infrastructure for housing.

"Given the criteria in the law, we are surprised and disappointed at the evaluation score assigned to Southwest LRT and respectfully disagree with this result," Meredith Salsbery, communications director at the Met Council, said in a statement. "The Southwest Light Rail line is critical to job growth in the region and represents a nine to one return on investment for the State of Minnesota."

The Republican-controlled Legislature created the grant program to see if it could remove some of the politics the biennial bonding process. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he intends to make the final decision on which projects get funded. An announcement is expected later this week.

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