With a new stadium came new challenges, one being that the stadium was much smaller with a seating capacity of only 3,100 and the infield sand was far too soft, much like the sand at a beach. This was a result of using the wrong material, which led to poor footing. The issue was eventually resolved. The new stadium was not built to house a major league team like its predecessor, but still hosted concerts.
The Saints would eventually return to St. Paul in 1993 in a new form, led by The Goldklang Group and Mike Veeck, son of famous former White Sox owner Bill Veeck. The new ownership wanted to emphasize fun at their games. The positive catch phrase “Fun is Good” was chosen, and soon Northern League baseball was taking place all summer long in St. Paul.
The newest baseball team in town became a hit, and quite quickly. “That was an unbelievable culture shock,” Bob remembers. “I asked how many people the GM expected and he said 2,500 and we were getting 5,000.” On opening night in 1993, Bill Murray, a part-owner of the ballclub, could be seen out in the parking lot passing out programs and would eventually throw out the first pitch for the Saints.
Bill is always a popular draw when he’s in town. Bob recalls meeting him a few times when the comedian would stop into his office. “I have met Bill Murray and he is just like he is in the movies. He’s a clever clown, the way he dresses and everything.”
The Saints lived out the Fun is Good philosophy by embracing the pre-game tailgating, offering haircuts in the stadium, strapping fans to an outfield billboard for the chance to win money, and handing out tongue-in-cheek giveaways like the Metrodome whoopee cushion, Michael Vick chew toy, and the notorious bobblefoot. Thanks to the high ticket sales, the Saints were able to add new sets of bleachers in 1994, which brought the seating capacity to over 6,000. The stadium today still has some charm despite its tight concourses and the lack of abundant restrooms.
Concessions have also greatly improved over the years, including the Beer Dabbler Bullpen, which was added in 2013 and highlights local craft brews such as Fulton, Third Street Brewhouse, Badger Hill, and Lift Bridge and will play host top the Summer Beer Dabbler 2014 on September 6th of this year. Local craft beer favorite, Summit is always available along with a slightly expanded menu featuring cheese curds, BBQ sandwiches, brats, ice cream, and nachos.
Specialty seating areas such as a hot tub deck, a log-cabin porch, and a set of airline seats in deep center field offered fans unique views of the game throughout the years, while the trains passing by the stadium have become a staple of Saints culture. The stadium is also adorned with murals of Minnesota’s baseball history painted by the late local artist Andy Nelson, and many long-time Saints fans can still find images of their younger selves in the mural from an early Saints game that graces the stadium’s front gate area.
Midway Stadium also hosted some of the Twin Cities most memorable concerts over the years—artists including Bob Dylan, Willy Nelson, The Counting Crows, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and DMX have performed for thousands of fans. Local favorite, the Replacements announced a homecoming show, which will close down the stadium this September.
As the date approaches to close Midway Stadium for good, Bob reminisces about the diligent employees he’s hired and had the privilege of working with. “My proudest moment was that I did all the hiring at this stadium and a number of people worked their first job here. One guy has been here 21 years. Another guy has 18 years of experience here. If I need extra help I can call on these guys.”
For what remains of the last season at Midway Stadium, Bob Klepperich will be where he is almost every Saints home game—sitting atop an overturned plastic bucket at field level, watching the pastime he dedicated his life to and that has given him so many memories.
Through nearly six decades of countless practices, sporting contests, and concerts, one thing is certain—America’s pastime will always have roots midway between St. Paul and Minneapolis.
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