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Minnesota Legislature

Bonding for St. Paul ballpark, Mankato arena

Published (2/24/2012)
By Nick Busse
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Supporters made their case Feb. 23 for $27 million in state bonding for a new regional ballpark in downtown St. Paul and $14.5 million to upgrade an events center in Mankato.

Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar) sponsors HF1677, which would fund the state’s half of a proposed $54 million baseball facility in St. Paul. The House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Committee laid the bill over for possible inclusion in its bonding recommendations.

The ballpark, which would house the St. Paul Saints as well as high school and college teams, would be located on an abandoned industrial site in Lowertown. The plan is to sell the 30-year-old Midway Stadium and use the money to help defray the cost of the new facility.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said the project has the support of the local business community, who see it as key to creating a vibrant downtown.

“Clearly there are job opportunities in the construction of the stadium … but we also understand this as a jobs measure to continue to recruit companies that want to come into St. Paul,” he said.

House Capital Investment Committee Chair Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker) said he supports the project “99 percent,” and that the current field is in bad condition. He said the project represented a legitimate use of public money.

“It’s not just government’s job to fund the things that are necessary, but it’s also helpful if we enhance communities and make life more pleasant,” Howes said.

The bill has no Senate companion.

The committee also laid over HF1883, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato). The bill would authorize $14.5 million in bonds to help fund a $31 million expansion and renovation of Mankato’s regional event center.

Jonathan Zierdt, president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth, Inc., said the project will allow for more conventions, performances and sporting events that will enhance the local economy. It would also provide a permanent, year-round home to Minnesota State University, Mankato’s men’s and women’s hockey teams.

Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato) sponsors the companion, SF1516, which awaits action by the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

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