Sun sets on Midway Stadium: Saints to play final game in aging ballpark

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The St. Paul Saints will mark the end of an era Thursday night as they play their final game at venerable Midway Stadium.

As a last hurrah and with the fun-loving whimsy that has become the team's trademark, the Saints are offering $1 beers, a fireworks "super show," and a "monster food truck rally." Details about the 7:05 p.m. game here.

The Saints in a statement said:

"For 22 seasons you have made this the most special ballpark in the country. You joined us as kids and now you are bringing your children to the game. It’s been an incredible run filled with laughter, excitement and championships. Our family has grown over the years and after more than 6,000,000 fans entered through the gates it’s time to turn out the lights. We’ll see you next season in our new home."

In a tweet, the team fought for a little attention on its special night:

Construction is underway on the team's new $27 million, 7,000-seat ballpark downtown, and the Saints vow to bring to the new stadium all the silly antics and affordable fun that their games are known for. You can follow construction progress on a live webcam or on a project Facebook page.

Beloved stadium

The 32-year-old Midway Stadium had its issues. Saints co-owner Mike Veeck has lovingly called it "the ugliest ballpark in America."

Built right next to rail tracks, access to the stadium was an issue, and post-game traffic snarls were common. When games were well-attended, the narrow concourse could get a bit crowded, and bathroom and beer lines could get long.

But many fans loved the shabby character of the ballpark and its metal bleachers, including – and perhaps especially – the trains that would creep by during games.

When the Saints moved into the ballpark in 1993, fans were drawn to the outdoor venue where they could watch the sun set and drink a cold – and cheap – beer, in contrast to what the Major League Twins offered at the Metrodome.

"This is beyond sad," one fan said on the Saints' Facebook page. "Love the old stadium. So many happy memories. Just don't think the same atmosphere and fun can be captured in a new location. What about the train???"

The rest is history

Over the years, the Saints used Midway Stadium to perfect the art of goofy between-inning antics and promotions. Among the venue's most well-known denizens were a nun who gave massages and a Japanese fan who led the stadium in karaoke.

The stadium saw several Major League players grace its field briefly, including outielder J.D. Drew. And the venue has been host to a wide variety of events, including football games, soccer games, a zombie pub crawl and corporate kickball events, the Pioneer Press notes.

Midway has also been a concert venue – The Replacements will play a sold-out show there Sept. 13 in the stadium's final big event.

Worth watching

The stadium was the subject of a short documentary by Minnesota filmmaker James Christenson of Vista Pop productions. It's a sweet 9-minute tribute to the quirky ballpark:

[vimeo 49577910 w="500" h="281"]

You can read more about the history of Midway Stadium – and its predecessor, built in 1957 and demolished in 1981 – on this Society for American Baseball Research page.

New ballpark

The Saints say their new venue will be more comfortable – but not too fancy, in keeping with what fans expect. For more on the new Lowertown stadium, click here:

This City of St. Paul video introduced some of the workers and planners behind the construction of the stadium project being managed by contractor Ryan Cos.

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