Midway Stadium leaves a lot to be desired. It lacks many of the amenities of newer ballparks, like real toilets and showers that don’t require players to wash en masse.
“It’s not as good as you had in junior high school,” said Ward Two council member David Thune, referring to the conditions of the locker room.
Corporations are reluctant to sponsor a stadium so far from downtown, especially given Midway’s condition, and developers do not have the space to bring new businesses to the area. These reasons and more have driven the Saints to consider both locations for a new ballpark and extensive renovations.
“We could go on for two or three years without issue but in ten years we won’t be able to play here unless we do something,” said Saints Executive Vice President Tom Whaley in a phone interview.
The Saints have looked primarily at two locations for a new ballpark, a location in the West Seventh Street neighborhood and the site of the old Gillette factory in Lowertown. However, recently the West Seventh/Fort Road Federation voted not to hold stadium discussions, effectively killing the chances of Saints baseball in the neighborhood.
Whaley remains undiscouraged. “The thing that’s of primary importance to the Saints is that we do this the right way,” he said. “And it’s not doing it the right way to try and force yourself onto a neighborhood.”
The West Seventh location wasn’t a particularly good fit in the first place because it lacked adequate space for parking, added Thune.
That leaves the Lowertown site, the same lot where the light rail maintenance shed is set to be built. The two projects could share the land, with the garage occupying roughly a third of the lot and the ballpark the rest.
Regardless of where the ballpark ends up, the Saints declare that it will remain an asset for all. According to Whaley, two-thirds of the events taking place at Midway Stadium are community events. “There’s not really another facility for amateur and youth baseball like this one,” he said.
As for funding, the team is looking for a partner to help share the costs. Hamline University has expressed interest, as have private investors hoping to develop mixed-use properties around any new ballpark.
“We want to pay our fair share of it, to be sure,” said Whaley.
St. Paul residents have asked to be part of the design process and “the Saints have welcomed that,” said Thune.
The team is in the early stages of gauging public interest in the location. They’ve been holding meetings in buildings around the site, “taking folk’s temperatures,” said Whaley. “The initial feedback that we’re getting is, ‘Yeah, the Saints could work in Lowertown.’ I think people get us down there.”
David Thune, too, gets the Saints. “I’m kind of excited about it,” he said. “It’s not like real Major League Baseball, it’s a lot more fun.”
Tim Lehman is a student at Macalester College and an intern at the TC Daily Planet
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