CHS Field in St. Paul’s Lowertown got a dose of summer with its first layer of sod Wednesday. Just after dawn, crews started installing the infield turf at the $62 million stadium. It’s a key part of the construction process that signals the minor league baseball St. Paul Saints will play on the new home field at the start of the season next May.
On a brilliant October day in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood, the vivid colors of autumn were on full display.
Just a home run from the Mississippi, a visitor could see a bit of brown and red (dirt), a splash of yellow (foul poles), a dash of pink (fuzzy pig) and, finally, a field of green (fresh sod).
The new $63 million St. Paul Saints ballpark is taking shape at Fifth and Broadway streets in St. Paul’s Lowertown area, as builders get ready to make the transition from concrete and steel activities to seat and sod work.
Current work includes installation of precast and cast-in-place concrete, steel erection, and mechanical and electrical rough in, according to Brad Meyer, spokesman for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Within the next six weeks, crews will begin to install light poles, seats, and the playing field sod for the 7,000-seat ballpark, which is on schedule to open in time for the 2015 baseball season, Meyer noted.
Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. US Inc. is the project’s builder and architect of record. Ryan’s team includes Snow Kreilich Architects (design architect), AECOM (sport architect) and TRI Construction (construction management partner).
The ballpark is under construction on the 9.7-acre former Diamond Products factory site. The property had significant contamination from its previous uses, including coal gas manufacturing.
Last week, the minor league baseball team played its last game at Midway Stadium, which will be torn down.
The city’s port authority plans to team with Bloomington-based United Properties on a new $15 million, 190,000-square-foot industrial building at the 12.77-acre Midway Stadium property on Energy Park Drive, as reported by Finance & Commerce in June.
They locked the gates and turned off the floodlights at Midway Stadium for the last time Thursday night, after a record crowd of 9,455 turned out to watch the hometown Saints play their final game before moving to a new home in Lowertown next season.
Mayor Chris Coleman was on hand to throw out the first pitch to actor and comedian Bill Murray, a co-owner of the team who also posed for photos and signed autographs. Singer Nicholas David handled National Anthem duties.
The Saints themselves lost to the Winnipeg Goldeyes 4-3, but finished with a 573-426 record since starting at the landmark ballpark in 1993.
For the past 20 years, the St. Paul Saints have built their unique brand at Midway Stadium, complete with a nun who gives massages in the outfield and mimes who perform instant replays. And in less than a year, the successor of Colboar—the Saints’ pig mascot—will deliver baseballs to umpires at the new CHS Field in downtown Saint Paul.
It may be hard to imagine now, but just ten years ago, Lowertown was a forgotten neighborhood with few businesses, residents, and visitors. Now the neighborhood is full of energy thanks to investments like the renovation of the historic Union Depot, the Green Line, and the CHS Field. In fact, the CHS Field is expected to attract 400,000 visitors and spur millions of dollars in economic impact annually.
Matt Connell, a first baseman and pitcher for the Hamline Pipers, won’t miss feeling like an also-ran at Midway Stadium on Energy Park Drive.
At the new regional ballpark in Lowertown, he’s guaranteed, among other things, his own locker inside the Pipers’ prominent new clubhouse.
“This is a huge step up, obviously,” said Connell, 21, a Hamline University student from Turtle Lake, Wis. “We don’t have our own locker room. We don’t get to practice on (the Midway field) consistently. We’ll get to use batting cages.”
In the world of independent league baseball, there is no more hallowed ground than the St. Paul Saints’ Midway Stadium. This is where independent baseball was born and first thrived.
It is also where independent baseball will be leaving after the Saints say farewell to the only home they’ve ever known and move into a new, $54 million ballpark next season.
The Saints were one of the six founding teams in the Northern League in 1993. From the start, they were the flagship franchise, drawing more fans than even the team and league owners could have expected.
Mike Veeck, president and part owner of the St. Paul Saints, said that a number of years ago then-Mayor Norm Coleman offered to help get a downtown ballpark built. Veeck polled fans at Midway Stadium and told Coleman to forget it, his followers preferred status quo.
Then came Target Field and Xcel Energy Center.
“The beginning of the end,” Veeck said. “People didn’t want to use portalets anymore.”
St. Paul’s new Lowertown ballpark is rising near the intersection of Fourth and Prince Streets.
Better yet, make that the intersection of two Minnesota music legends, with “Positively Fourth Street” honoring Bob Dylan’s 1960s hit, and perhaps “The Street Formerly Known as Prince.”
Yes, St. Paul, the team with a pig for a mascot and legendary “usher-tainers” is all about the next amusing idea. While the Saints’ move downtown is serious business, team owners (the guys who invented “mime-o-vision”) can’t help but include some whimsical thinking.
For 22 seasons, the Saints have built their brand on the fan experience. That won’t change, co-owner Mike Veeck promised us last week, with efforts to make their spring 2015 transition from worn out Midway Stadium to the new $63 million, 7,000-seat facility as smooth as possible.
Architects are working with the Saints to “figure out what traditions and features of Midway are brought over” to the new building, Ryan Construction’s Logan Gerken told us.
The Port Authority on Tuesday approved an agreement between United Properties and Capital City Properties, the Port Authority’s subsidiary, for a joint venture to redevelop the 12.77-acre Midway Stadium site on Energy Park Drive.
The joint venture, dubbed MVP Real Estate LLC, would build a “flex industrial facility” once the St. Paul Saints leave Midway Stadium for the CHS Field under construction in downtown. The industrial building would most likely have four to six tenants leasing space.