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St. Paul strikes deal for Saints stadium funding

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The City of St. Paul announced today it has reached a tentative deal to pay for the new Lowertown Ballpark, future home of the St. Paul Saints.

The $54 million project ballooned by $8.8 million this summer after tests showed contaminated and unstable soil that added $6.2 million to the cost. Additional design and construction costs tacked on the other $2.6 million.

That price tag wasn't part of the original funding plan, and threatened to derail the years-long effort to move the Saints from their Midway Stadium home into a new Lowertown location.

Today, the city says it has averted the financial crisis: The city plans to use $2 million in state sports facilities funds and a $6 million "internal loan" to close that gap. The 7-member City Council is expected to consider the expenditure at its next meeting.

In return, the Saints have agreed to:

  • Contribute an additional $1 million up front

  • Be financially responsible for operations and day-to-day maintenance costs at the ballpark

  • Share a percentage of net revenue with the city

  • Share profit with the city if the team is sold within 7 years

City officials say the deal marks "the first time in Minnesota sports history that a team would share with a governmental unit both annual revenues and a percentage of sale proceeds should the team be sold," although similar sale provisions were written into the deals for the Twins new stadium and the new home for the Vikings. Neither the team nor the city would discuss how much of net revenue the Saints were expected to share.

The Saints now pay for operating costs, city officials said, but the city has paid for maintenance and maintenance equipment costs at Midway. The new deal would represent a change to that arrangement at the new stadium. Parks director Mike Hahm said today that the agreement calls for the team to contribute almost $100,000 annually into a capital maintenance fund. The city is also going to pursue reimbursement or environmental cleanup grants to offset the additional cost and repay the loan, according to the terms of the deal outlined in a statement from the St. Paul Parks and Recreation department.

It isn't clear exactly how much bigger the team's contribution will be, beyond the original deal struck between the Saints and the city. Asked if St. Paul still might still be leaving some team money on the table, Mike Hahm defended the terms in a conference call this afternoon. "We're proud of the deal," Hahm said. "We think it represents real value for this project."

The 7,000 seat stadium is being built on the site of the former Diamond Products plant on the eastern edge of downtown. It's expected to host its first baseball game in 2015.