St. Paul opened the bidding process Friday for a new Saints ballpark in Lowertown, complying with Gov. Mark Dayton's wishes that the city use competition to find a builder for the $54 million project.

The city had awarded the project without seeking bids to Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos., a firm the Saints had chosen as a partner in developing its ballpark proposal.

But Dayton last month suggested he might withhold a $25 million state grant to St. Paul for the ballpark if the city didn't put the project up for bidding. Shortly after, city leaders said they would.

Alex Dumke, St. Paul's federal labor standards compliance officer, said the request for proposals issued Friday was for a design-build construction manager at risk. That means there will be a guaranteed maximum price for the design and construction of the ballpark.

Bids will be accepted through Dec. 19, he said.

The process isn't expected to interfere with plans to open the ballpark for the 2015 season.

The 7,000-seat ballpark for the popular minor league team, which has played since the 1990s at aging Midway Stadium, is expected to help revitalize the Lowertown neighborhood in downtown St. Paul.

The Taxpayers League of Minnesota and the chairman of St. Paul's Republican Party claimed that St. Paul violated state and city law by awarding the contract to Ryan without bids, and sued the city.

St. Paul leaders said they had acted within the law.

They reversed course, however, after Dayton met with Mayor Chris Coleman and told him he couldn't support the project without competitive bidding, a spokeswoman for the governor said.

In addition to the $25 million state grant, the city will borrow $17 million through bonds for the ballpark, paying off half with rent from the Saints and the other half mostly with city sales tax revenue.

The Saints will pay $1.5 million in cash. The balance of the financing will come from assorted funds.

Demolition for the ballpark site is expected to begin in the spring.

Kevin Duchschere • 651-925-5035