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Saints Big Winner In Bonding Sweepstakes

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton handed state construction dollars to a minor-league St. Paul ballpark and projects in Duluth and Wadena on Thursday, passing over civic centers in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud after the Republican-controlled Legislature punted on choosing among the regional projects.

The $25 million for the St. Paul Saints ballpark makes it the second stadium the Democratic governor has launched in less than four months.

Back in May, Dayton signed legislation to build a $975 million Vikings stadium in Minneapolis. That’s also when lawmakers approved a bonding bill with a $47.5 million pot for regional projects and authority for the Dayton administration to evaluate and pick winners. Local governments submitted 90 applications totaling $288 million, guaranteeing a list of disappointed losers.

Dayton said he chose “strictly by the book” based on rankings from the Department of Employment and Economic Development. But he diverted from the scores to give $2 million to a proposed light-rail line between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, drawing praise from chambers of commerce in the southwestern suburbs. He also pared down final awards from requested amounts for all the winners, cutting $2 million from the Saints’ $27 million request.

Dayton’s administration estimated all the funded projects together would put 2,000 people to work.

Saints owner and president Mike Veeck said he was “thrilled” and “so appreciative.”

The $54 million Saints stadium will be built in the Lowertown area of downtown St. Paul, near the end of a light-rail line that will run to Target Field, the Twins’ home in Minneapolis. The ballpark is slated to open in 2015.

Veeck said the scrappy minor-league team will keep ticket prices affordable and maintain a goofy, fun-filled atmosphere.

“This is a ballpark for everybody that everybody can afford,” he said. “I hope people go, ‘Oh gosh, I can get into the bathroom now and I can get a hot dog in less than three innings.'”

Dayton said he viewed both the Saints and Vikings projects as boosts for the construction industry and revitalization for downtown areas. But the governor who served as chief cheerleader for the Vikings stadium wouldn’t say whether he would be at the new Saints ballpark on opening day.

“This is not about sports. This is about the people of Minnesota and what’s best for our state,” Dayton said.

Other projects that made the cut:

—$1.9 million to build a recycling plant serving Redwood and Renville counties.

—$1.5 million for water and sewer lines to a business park in Lonsdale.

—$1.1 million to expand a wastewater treatment plant in Hector so a kosher and halal beef processor in Buffalo Lake can expand.

—$763,000 for a business incubator in Hutchinson.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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