St. Paul Ballpark To Cost Extra $8.8 Million For Site Cleanup, Upgrades

After more thorough tests, the price tag for cleanup of the proposed site for a new Saints stadium has risen to $11.2 million.

St. Paul Ballpark To Cost Extra $8.8 Million For Site Cleanup, Upgrades

St. Paul officials said Wednesday afternoon that costs of cleaning up the old Gillette manufacturing site to put in a new St. Paul Saints ballbark will be $6.2 million more than projected.

And they said that that an additional $2.6 million is needed to make sure they build a "first-class ballpark."

But the financing shortfall won't stop demolition and construction, officials said. They're going to look for additional money and still plan to open in 2015.

The original cost of the ballpark, on the edge of Lowertown in downtown St. Paul, was to be $54 million. The cost is now at least $62.8 million, they said.

The city received $25 million from the state in special bonding deal after the 2012 session. The city planned to pay at least $17 million, and the Saints baseball team was scheduled to put in $10 million, although most of that will be paid off with extra revenue generated by the new stadium.

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A 2011 analysis of the contamination on the Gillette site indicated there would be significant cleanup costs, and $5 million was budgeted for that, officials said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters.

But now that more thorough tests have been initiated, the price tag for cleanup has risen to $11.2 million.

Mike Hahm, the city's Parks and Rec director, said: "We knew the site was susceptible to pollution and contaminants; we can pinpoint now with greater certainty the extent, and the cost of fixing it."

He added: "We are working to address the full extent of the gap for cleanup and working work with our partners to fill the gap. We're asking the Saints to work with us."

Tom Whaley, Saints executive vice president, didn't commit to a specific added contribution to help resolve the $8.8 million shortfall, but said:

"The issues with the site are not insignificant, but we've scaled mountains  to get where we are today and we're not going to let a couple hills get in the way. We're fully committed to being part of the solution to getting this thing done."

St. Paul Port Authority President Louis Jambois said such cleanup surprises are not unusual in urban projects.

"We can find ways to fill gaps when identified in projects of this nature," he said. "We can shake the trees and find the sources to fill those gaps. If we wait until everything absolutely is in place, we'd never get anything done."

Jambois said there likely would have been contamination problems with any site the city selected for a new ballpark.

The Port Authority and the city had basically made a land switch for the ballpark: The Port transferred the Gillette site to the city in exchange for the city-owned Midway Stadium site near the state Fairgrounds, where the team now plays.

It was recently learned that the Midway Stadium site, too, has greater contamination than was expected because tons of horse manure from the fairgrounds were deposited there before the stadium was built.

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