Duluth mayor Don Ness said his city wants to take another crack at winning state support for Wade Stadium, and he's willing to put city sales tax dollars behind it.
Ness told the News Tribune that the city could revive a recently expired half-cent food and drink tax to fund the stadium project. The tax expired last fall, and the paper said it generated nearly $1 million per year.
For now, Duluth is asking the state for $250,000 in planning money for improvements and repairs at the stadium. The city applied for the Department of Employment and Economic Development grant sweepstakes last year, but lost out, mainly to St. Paul's Lowertown Ballpark.
Ness said the city will match the $250,000 in planning funds, and expects the study will outline $8 to $10 million in improvements at the Wade. The mayor said that's likely to be a 2014 effort. Duluth asked for $5.8 million in state funds, and $2.9 million in bonding last year. Here's what he said in a recent MPR interview:
"What we're asking for right now, is the planning money, to go in and really do a true engineering assessment and develop the construction plan that will make this shovel ready. We also want to engage the community, the users of that stadium, as well as the fans, and say 'What are the amenities that you really want here?' so that we can come back to the Legislature next year and say this is exactly the amount we need, here is exactly where the match will come from, so lets move forward with a plan to save this historic stadium."
The list of improvements in last year's application to DEED included:
New kitchens, bathrooms, locker rooms, medical office, concessions and ticket booth ($2.2 million
Brick fence reconstruction ($675,000)
Artificial turf ($1M)
Parking improvements ($500,000)
New scoreboard ($400,000
New seats ($300,000)
Ness said the collapse of the right field wall last month "in some ways is a relief...Now we know it won't be a danger during the baseball season."
The historic stadium started as a Works Progress Administration project, finished just before the outbreak of World War II. The stadium is made from the bricks removed from Grand Avenue when it was paved more than 70 years ago.
Ness said the field has subsided in areas, has drainage problems and a host of other issues. "We have right now, any time we have any sort of rain, we get pools of water in the outfield. There's some problems with first base being several inches higher than third base," Ness said."So there's just a lot of issues in this park, and we want to make sure we do this right. That's one of the reaons we're looking for this planning money, to make sure that every single detail is done correctly, in a way that we can be proud of when its done."