Cost of Lowertown Ballpark Construction Causes Controversy

Updated: 11/19/2013 4:58 PM By: Beth McDonough

It's been disputed, debated and it's been a difficult sell to people in St. Paul.

But Saturday, demolition began at the site of what will be the new Saints ballpark in the Lowertown neighborhood, at the corner of 5th and Broadway.

The rising cost of the two year construction project is becoming controversial.

That's because even before ground was broken, the ballpark came in over budget, putting its backers under fire.

"We keep coming up with ways to create money, so I'm not concerned about it, we knew going in there would be difficulties along the way," says Mike Veeck, the owner of the Saint Paul Saints.

It's the cost of cleaning up soil contamination that unexpectedly jacked up the price tag.

"This is a fairly traditional brownfield clean up, it's more extensive than we thought it would be but the problems aren't different than the types we faced on other projects," according to Mayor Chris Coleman.

Original estimates put the stadium project at $54 million, but with the added expense it's now $63 million. 

Stadium critics used megaphones during the ceremony to make sure their side is heard.

"This ballpark should not be happening, the community doesn't want it, the reality is it's a lot of money, $60 million plus dollars that we can't afford," argues Tim Holden of St. Paul.

He wonders where the rest of the money is coming from. 

The Saints committed another $1 million this week, making its share roughly $11 million.  The City kicked in $17 million, the State $25 million plus another $2 million in loans and grants.  That leaves the stadium $8 million short.

If someone at the groundbreaking ceremony knows where that money is coming from, they didn't share the information.

"There isn't a ballpark in the world that hasn't been built with all kinds of controversy, frankly I think controversy is good," said Veeck.

Demolition will take four months.  90% of the materials like concrete and rebar will be recycled. 

The first pitch at the ballpark will be the spring of 2015.

Watch the demolition here.