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St. Paul council takes final steps on Lowertown Ballpark

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by Rupa Shenoy

The St. Paul City Council Wednesday approved the sale of bonds to help build the Lowertown Ballpark.

The council unanimously approved a resolution that St. Paul staff said wrapped up years of work to make the new home for the minor league Saints possible.

The resolution authorizes the development agreement for the $63 million ballpark. It gives city representatives the power to negotiate and sell capital improvement bonds to help fund a part of St. Paul's $24 million contribution toward the project.

Todd Hurley, director of the city's Office of Financial Services said potential investors are offering to buy the bonds at a lower interest rate than city staff expected.

He said that will save the city money and reduce the baseball team's rent from $650,000 a year to $575,000 a year.

"Obviously, [there are] better chances of success on the rent on the Saints side and then also more affordable for the city as we take over the debt service on these bonds in 2015 and beyond," Hurley said.

The 7,000 seat stadium on the site of the former Diamond Products factory also will be funded by $28 million from the state and $11 million from the St. Paul Saints.

Michael Hahm, director of St. Paul Parks and Recreation explained the city already is chipping away at an internal loan it needed to clean up contamination at the site.

"We have the first million dollars toward the $6 million loan secured. So it's effectively a $5 million loan.  And it also authorizes us to apply for three additional grants, that if we're successful, will further reduce that loan," Hahm said.

The ballpark is scheduled to open in 2015.