Nine months before the St. Paul Saints are scheduled to take the field in a new downtown ballpark now under construction, plans for the park continue to expand along with its budget.
Next week, the City Council is expected to approve a series of financing tweaks that will boost the project's cost from $63 million to $64.7 million, with the additional spending covered by environmental grants, the Saints and the ballpark's latest tenant — Hamline University.
After sharing the soon-to-be-razed Midway Stadium for more than two decades with the Saints, the Pipers will move into the new ballpark next season.
Hamline will pay a total of $1.5 million over the 25-year course of its lease with the city, including $500,000 that will go toward a third locker room to be built in unassigned space under the seats along the right-field line. The locker room will be used by Hamline and other groups.
The budget amendment includes additional funding from the Saints, who are throwing in $231,272 to install infrastructure for two additional suites (currently four are planned) to be built at a future date.
Hamline's new partnership was introduced Thursday at a news conference across the street from the Lowertown ballpark site. The university will play about a dozen games there each season, use the field for practices, and have access to the training and weight rooms and storage facilities.
"We believe we'll have the best field in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference," said Hamline President Linda Hanson. New light-rail and bus lines will make it easy for Piper fans to reach the park from the Midway-area campus, she added.
The ballpark is expected to be ready for the Saints' home opener in May.
Also new is a $555,750 grant from Xcel Energy to install solar panels in the left-field area to generate 10 to 12 percent of the park's electricity, and $425,000 in grants from the Capitol Regional Watershed District and the Metropolitan Council to capture rainwater from the roof of the nearby light-rail operations center to irrigate the field and flush toilets.
More than three months into construction, the outlines of the 7,000-seat ballpark are starting to take shape. A stair and elevator tower rises above the site, concession stands and restrooms have gone up along the third-base line and the concourse off right field has been poured.
The field itself will be sodded in late September or early October, said ballpark architect Logan Gerken.
More than 80 percent of the park's cost will be paid with public funding. According to city documents, the state is contributing $25 million; the Saints are giving $2.2 million in cash and paying off $8.8 million in city bonding with rent payments, and $5.5 million will come from state and regional grants.
St. Paul's share of the cost is $21.5 million, including an additional $1.3 million from the city's sport facilities fund that the state set up in 2012 as part of the tax bill that financed the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. That legislation awards St. Paul $2.7 million annually for 20 years.
The city recently received $2.5 million in a Met Council grant and environmental grants from the state and Ramsey County that, along with $1 million from the Hamline lease, will whittle the city's internal loan to itself — originally $6 million, and intended to loosen cash flow for the project — down to $1.2 million.
Mayor Chris Coleman hailed the partnership with Hamline.
"Officially, today, I'm a Piper," he said Thursday, donning a burgundy Hamline baseball cap.