St. Paul Saints stadium funding gap could be as high as $29m

If you’re depressed about the state of newspapers after this, here’s something to cheer you up: a long post on the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s website that actually lays out the math for a proposed stadium deal and reports its findings. The stadium in question is for the minor-league St. Paul Saints, it’s set to cost $66 million, and nobody knows where nearly half that money will come from. Simplifying the article’s charts a bit:

Ballpark Construction Capital Cost: $66.1 million

Upfront Capital Cost Breakdown (by Municipality / Private Entity):
State of Minnesota: $27,000,000
City of St. Paul: $9,000,000 *Agreed to provide $17 million
St. Paul Saints Organization: $1,500,000

Total Monies Available: $37,500,000 *$66.6m Total Cost with $37.5m Avail. in 2013 = $29m shortfall

The Saints have also agreed to pay an additional $340,000 a year, though as they won’t own the building, the article notes, this is more reasonably considered “rent” than an actual contribution to the construction cost. And in any event, this still leaves the stadium with a rather large shortfall, in part because of increased environmental cleanup costs, in part because the Saints tacked on some new features to make their minor-league park “first class,” and in part because St. Paul officials apparently have some trouble with addition.

The story goes on to estimate the tax revenue benefits to Minnesota, and while the numbers are a bit speculative, it’s clear that the total impact amounts to “not much.” If the Saints are able to increase attendance from 5,000 to 6,000 per game (the new stadium is supposed to hold 7,000), concludes the article, “For St. Paul to make up its end of the financing bargain, they would need to immediately impose a $1.13 tax per ticket sold over the next 25 years, not accounting for debt service payments.”

There’s more that could be done to fine-tune this analysis, but in all it’s a fine piece of reporting, and we should applaud the Star Tribune for having one of its reporters actually crunch the numbers rather than just taking team marketing claims at their word. So, props to Nathaniel Hood, who is … “a transportation planner and blogger living in St. Paul”? Wait, this is an op-ed post on the paper’s YourVoices section, not something that the Star Tribune assigned to one of its own reporters? Okay, you can go ahead and be depressed about the state of newspapers after all.