As the first puck was being dropped this week at the Xcel Energy Center for the girls state hockey tournament, the folks of Visit Saint Paul, flanked by wrestlers, entertainers, roller derby girls and astronauts, announced the launch of 31 Days of Giveaways!
It's a promotion to highlight a busy month in the Saintly City.
"March is so big in St. Paul that the festivities start in February," said Mayor Chris Coleman. "It's one of our busiest months of the year and a great opportunity to showcase all the fun and unique events that make St. Paul so special, from Wild hockey to a wedding fair."
Beginning with the girls' hockey tournament, the city will host dozens of games, events, concerts, the city's St. Patrick's Day parade and Space: And Out-of-Gravity Experience at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
To entice even more interest, Visit Saint Paul is offering a long list of prizes, from Wild game tickets to concert passes, restaurant gift cards and free hotel and bed and breakfast stays.
Terry Mattson, president and CEO of Visit Saint Paul -- who actually introduced the mayor by wearing a hand puppet "Mr. Happy" -- said an estimated 1 million visitors could descend on the city over the next six weeks.
"We can't wait to welcome these visitors to St. Paul," he said. "It's an incredible month. We plan on making it even better by giving away all kinds of awesome St. Paul swag."
A complete list of prizes and contest rules can be found at http://VisitSaintPaul.com/marchon.
Red Bull Crashed Ice, the extreme skate race that has become an annual winter spectacle in St. Paul, cost the city somewhere north of $118,000 this year for police, fire, parks and public works services.
But Red Bull reimbursed the city for every public dime spent, short of the time of some city staffers such as Joe Spencer, Mayor Chris Coleman’s arts and culture adviser.
“Red Bull is great because they pay all their bills,” Spencer said Tuesday.
About 140,000 people are thought to have attended this year’s event, which took place on a steep and bumpy track that started at the Cathedral of St. Paul and twisted down the hill leading to downtown.
One of the sponsors was the city’s convention bureau, Visit St. Paul, which paid Red Bull an estimated $140,000 – about twice as much as the year before, said President and CEO Terry Mattson.
The hike was due in part, Mattson said, to this year’s Crashed Ice Village outside the Xcel Energy Center, which offered food, beverages, music and a jumbo screen to visitors and spectators.
“The cost of doing business has increased because the sport has grown and evolved,” he said.
The city annually contributes a portion of the revenue from its lodging tax to the convention bureau, an amount estimated this year at between $1.7 million and $1.8 million.
The total estimated economic impact of all events that weekend – which included Winter Carnival festivities -- was $20 million, of which Mattson said $12 million to $15 million could be attributed to Crashed Ice.
Spencer said the city’s costs for the event were split among police, $73,000 for traffic management and crowd control; fire, $23,000 for paramedics; parks and recreation, $13,600 for event staff and turf repair; and public works, $8,000 for road closures, lighting and clean up.
There’s no formal competition among cities to host the event and St. Paul didn’t submit a bid, Mattson said. On the other hand, the city enjoys no assurance from one year to the next that Red Bull will return to St. Paul, Spencer said.
But they clearly like the city, which hosted its first Crashed Ice event in 2012.
“It’s unusual for Red Bull to come back for repeat engagements, and each year they caution us that they [typically] don’t come back,” Spencer said. “And yet they’ve also said this is the most successful Crashed Ice event anywhere. So it’s our hope they’ll come back.”
Red Bull isn’t done yet with St. Paul this winter. The company, in partnership with Become Co., plans to shoot a daredevil snowmobile sequence in downtown St. Paul for online viewing in early March.
According to a proposed sound level variance going before the City Council on Feb. 18, a “specialized snowmobile” will race up Robert Street from 12th Street to University Avenue, where it will jump the concrete overlook in Cass Gilbert Park east of the State Capitol. Levi LaVallee, an award-winning snowmobile driver from Longville, Minn., will do the honors.
This one isn’t a spectator event, Spencer said. But it will set the stage for millions of online views of the city.
“If it comes together, it’s a great opportunity to showcase St. Paul,” he said.
Can Can Wonderland, the former Blue Ox Mini Golf, has issued a call for artists to help design its new 19,000-square foot indoor facility.
Housed in the belly of what was a former St. Paul can factory and near an indoor train yard with real trains, Can Can Wonderland is seeking artists to design "playable art that can captivate the senses."
Can Can Wonderland is offering two proposal options:
A $5,000 stipend for each selected design & build proposal or a $1,000 stipend for each selected design only proposal to be built by Can Can's team of artists.
Can Can Wonderland said it also wants "engineers, architects, designers, makers, dreamers, students, hackers, etc." to step forward with proposals. Interested applicants may submit more than one proposal.
The deadline is March 1.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 612.871.2545.
While the Saints’ new ballpark continues to rise in downtown St. Paul, plans for their old home at Midway Stadium got a significant boost Tuesday from the state.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced $4.16 million in pollution cleanup or investigative grants to 10 redevelopment sites across the state, including $1.25 million to remediate the old ballpark site near Snelling Avenue in St. Paul.
The 12.9-acre site, once a dump, is co-owned by the St. Paul Port Authority and United Properties. They plan to build a light-industrial building where nearly 200 people can be employed. The redevelopment is expected to increase the tax base by $814,331.
The Port Authority and other grant sources will match the cleanup costs, according to a DEED news release.
The Port Authority acquired the Midway Stadium site in 2012 in a land swap with the city of St. Paul, which didn’t have the needed funds to buy the Lowertown site for the new ballpark. The Port Authority bought the downtown site for $1.85 million, then gave it to the city in exchange for the Midway site.
Another St. Paul developer also received $200,000 to clean up pollution at a site along W. 7th Street near the Xcel Energy Center, where a new hotel, housing and street-level commercial space are planned. The redevelopment is expected to add 50 jobs and increase the tax base by $818,317.
Other sites receiving cleanup grants Tuesday, along with plans for redevelopment: Howe Fertilizer, Brooklyn Center, dock facility, $610,000; 602 Residences, Minneapolis, condos and underground parking, $292,000; New Horizon Academy, Minneapolis, daycare center, $243,000; Brad’s Auto Salvage, Blue Earth County, shop and office building, $233,000; Washington and Chicago redevelopment, Minneapolis, apartment building with commercial space, $227,000; city of Mankato, children’s museum, $98,000; and Garceau Hardware, Vadnais Heights, senior housing complex, $18,000.
Gary Bettman, commissioner of the National Hockey League, will be at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday morning to announce that the Minnesota Wild’s home arena, along with the rest of the RiverCentre complex, is high on sustainability.
The downtown St. Paul entertainment complex, which includes the convention center and Roy Wilkins Auditorium, this year won three of the biggest prizes in the green world: certification from LEED, Green Globes and APEX/ASTM, all organizations that make independent judgments on environmentally-sound construction and operations.
Kathy Ross of the Wild, which manages RiverCentre for the city, said that getting all three certifications is a first for a complex of this sort. And most such honors of this sort go to newly-built structures, not buildings that went up years ago.
Officials say that RiverCentre and Xcel Center recycle 60 percent of its waste, use solar energy and wind power to reduce carbon by more than half, save thousands of gallons of water with faucet aerators, and buy office products and cleaning materials that are environmentally preferable.
Joining Bettman at an 11 a.m. news conference at Xcel will be Mayor Chris Coleman, Wild owner Craig Leopold and RiverCentre general manager Jim Ibister.