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Bonding for a ballpark in St. Paul

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opinion Brainerd, 56401

Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton recently positioned his bonding proposal - projects he’ll ask the Legislature to pay for with proceeds from the sale of state bonds, which then have to be repaid, with interest, by taxpayers — as an effort to put 25,000 Minnesotans back to work.

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His Republican colleagues see the proposal from a different angle, emphasizing that the “purpose and scope of the biennial bonding bill is to repair and build infrastructure, not to serve as stimulus or short-term jobs program,” as Majority Leader David Senjem, Rochester, said. “We must be prudent about placing debt burden upon our children and grandchildren.”

As the differences play out in this important discussion, we think there’s room for agreement that bonding for one hoped-for project — a new regional ballpark in downtown St. Paul — does just what a traditional, effective bonding project should: It leverages public dollars to help build a public facility that will drive economic development in an area that’s primed and ready to produce.

Bonding for $27 million for the ballpark for the St. Paul Saints and amateur baseball in Minnesota is among projects in Gov. Dayton’s $775 million proposal for public works programs. In St. Paul, city and business leaders alike back the ballpark, a 7,000-seat facility at the site of the old Diamond Products building across from the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. The total project will cost around $50 million.

The ballpark would host more than 180 events during a 210-day outdoor season, most of them amateur sports events for players of all ages, such as the state high school baseball championships. The Saints would play 50 games each year at the venue.

Senjem, chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, said the committee and its House counterpart will have their own recommendations in the next few weeks. Senjem has said he doesn’t want the proposal to exceed the $400 million mark.

The governor recognized the strong case St. Paul has made for a regional ballpark. When legislative leaders consider the proposal, we think they, too, will recognize the strong public purpose it serves as a statewide home for amateur baseball and as a driver of economic development that will complement other major downtown projects set for completion around the same time.

— St. Paul Pioneer Press

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