St. Paul kicked off Saturday work to make room for the new Saints ballpark in Lowertown.
A ceremony marked the start of exterior demolition of the Gillette/Diamond Products building. Saints co-owner Mike Veeck and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman took swings with baseball bat sledgehammers. Saints mascot Mudonna also was on hand.
The bulk of the work will start Monday. Most of the demolition will be done with backhoes equipped with concrete munchers, excavators and jack hammers.
Rachel Contracting of St. Michael already had started on the vacant 650,000 square-foot factory’s interior. At least 90 percent of the building materials, mostly concrete and rebar, will be recycled for other uses.
The 7,000-seat ballpark is expected to host more than 100 youth, amateur and college events in addition to 50 Saints games. Officials say it will draw 400,000 visitors per year.
Funding for the project includes a $25 million state grant and a total of $17 million in city bonding. St. Paul won a $1 million state grant to remove pollutants from the 11-acre site. Those pollutants also had penetrated more deeply than previously thought, helping to jack up the price of the project $8.8 million over its $54 million budget.
The Saints have committed to $2.5 million in cash and $8.5 million in city bonding that the team will pay off in rent.