Saints co-owner Mike Veeck
SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- The man who brought the Saint Paul Saints to Minnesota in 1992 says the move to the new Lowertown Ballpark won't change the team's basic appeal to its loyal fans.
In his first television interview since Saint Paul secured the needed funding to move ahead with the project, Saints co-owner Mike Veeck said the team's quirky promotions and affordability will follow the team from Midway Stadium to its new home.
"Because it's Lowertown I think the quirk is built in," Veeck told KARE Saturday.
"There wasn't anything quirky about Midway when we moved in there. What made it quirky were the people, and the fans that came through. And then we hired some interesting articulate people."
Earlier in the weekend the Department of Employment and Economic Development, or DEED, announced the project would get a $25 million economic development grant. Those dollars will come from a special $47 million pool of bonding money approved by the legislature last spring.
That grant combined with $10 million the owners posted and $15 million pledged by the City of St. Paul will bring total funding to $45 million, just $2 million short of the projected $47 million price tag of the regional baseball stadium.
"We've been to the alter before," Veeck said, referring to previous efforts to lobby the legislature for help paying for the stadium in the Capital City's trendy warehouse district.
"And I know some people think this happened because of vote-trading on the Vikings stadium deal," he added.
"The real reason, I believe, this deal got done, is because we sell $2.50 hot dogs and always have. We've raised our ticket prices three times, from $3 to the princely sum of $5 and $6. And that's our niche."
He said the Saints' other owner, including actor Bill Murray, are committed to keeping the team's character and ensuring that it continues to be affordable for all families, even as it moves into its new digs.
"We're planning to bring 400,000 people to St. Paul every year, so we know it's going to help revitalize this area," he said, while acknowledging that the new field will also increase the value of the team.
"Absolutely, there's something in it for us too, I'm not saying there isn't," Veeck explained. "But this is a chance for a ball club that's had record attendance for 20 years to give something back to a community."
He noted that some sports writers wrote off the Saints when they first arrived, predicting the independent professional baseball team wouldn't last 45 days.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)