Mayor Chris Coleman, Mike Veeck, Mike Ryan, and Mike Hahm
On Saturday, July 13th the St. Paul Saints and the City of Saint Paul held a demolition event to mark the official start of construction for the Saints new ballpark in Lowertown. The event took place at the old Gillette/Diamond Products building, the site where the Saints new ballpark will be built.
Prior to the start of the event Saints staff were on hand giving away baseballs, 20th anniversary pins, and team schedules. Also there was a model of the new ballpark to give event goers a first look at what it will look like when finished. To add a little "Saints fun" to the event, mascots Mudonna (in her own Ryan Construction hardhat) and Mackleboar (wrapped in caution tape) were there along with a life size cutout of Saints minority owner, Bill Murray.
The event was kicked off by Mike Hahm, St. Paul's Parks and Recreation Director, taking the podium and saying a few words about the long road it has been getting to this point for the ballpark and how they have been working on it for the past twelve years. Mike then introduced St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman who talked about what a wonderful addition to Lowertown, and Downtown the new ball park will be. Following the Mayor, Saints owner Mike Veeck took the podium to talk about his journey of owning the Saints and making the new ballpark a reality. One of the highlights of Mike's speech was telling the crowd, "Sorry Bill Murray couldn't be here, but he's out scrounging that extra million." Referring to the extra one million dollars the Saints have pledged to the project to pay for extra site cleanup costs. Finally, Mike Ryan of Ryan Construction took the podium talking about how excited the company is to begin demolition of the Gillette/Diamond Products building and the construction of the new ballpark. There was also a nice moment when the participants in the event recognized a group of former employees of Gillette that worked in the building, all there in support of the demolition and the new ballpark.
After the speeches were finished a Ryan Construction backhoe took down a small overhang on the building with cheers ringing out from the crowd to officially begin the demolition of the building. Then the ceremonial first blocks were broken. Mayor Coleman, Mike Veeck, and Mike Ryan all took turns with sledgehammers breaking concrete blocks. In true Saints fashion the three used baseball bats made into sledgehammers, one of them even being a bat from current Saints slugger, and career home run leader, Ole Sheldon. After that Mudonna got involved by posing for pictures on the backhoe.
Once the event was finished and everyone was hanging around talking and smiling, the highlights of the event happened for me. I once again met Saints owner Mike Veeck and he graciously signed my Saints baseball. He then talked with us for a couple of minutes telling us stories from his beginnings in the baseball and "Fun is Good" business. I totally agree with fellow Saints blogger, Midwaytailgater's take on Mike Veeck. I am completely starstruck when I am around him. I can't think of anything to say and can barely speak. Luckily he loves to talk to people so I can just stand there, listen, and laugh with him. If you ever have the chance to meet and talk to Mike Veeck, do it! He is as engaging and entertaining as they come. After talking with Mike we were able to meet Mayor Chris Coleman and have him sign the baseball. Mayor Coleman joked to us that the ball may go down in value after he signed it. My reply to him was that with the work he has done to get the new ballpark in Lowertown, the ball was now worth a million dollars to me.
Besides a group of protesters/hecklers (the leader who will remain nameless as to not give him any notoriety for disrupting the event) it was a great way to start the construction for the Saints new Lowertown ballpark. The Saints and the City of St. Paul once again proved that with persistence and a will to get things done, anything is possible. I for
one can not wait until opening day at the new ballpark in 2015!