"Anyone in that position has the ability, if he's willing, to get a project in his own home city with the active support of the governor," Dayton said at a Capitol news conference.
Dayton said he chose "strictly by the book" based on rankings from the Department of Employment and Economic Development. But he diverted from the scores to give $2 million to a proposed light-rail line between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, drawing praise from chambers of commerce in the southwestern suburbs. He also pared down final awards from requested amounts for all the winners, cutting $2 million from the Saints' $27 million request.
Duluth will get $8.5 million for an office building and parking ramp, Wadena $4.2 million to rebuild a wellness center destroyed by a tornado, and Litchfield $2.3 million to fund sewer lines for a cheese plant expansion.
Dayton's administration estimated all the funded projects together would put 2,000 people to work.
Saints owner and president Mike Veeck said he was "thrilled" and "so appreciative."
The $54 million Saints stadium will be built in the Lowertown area of downtown St. Paul, near the end of a light-rail line that will run to Target Field, the Twins' home in Minneapolis. The ballpark is slated to open in 2015.
Veeck said the scrappy minor-league team will keep ticket prices affordable and maintain a goofy, fun-filled atmosphere.
"This is a ballpark for everybody that everybody can afford," he said. "I hope people go, 'Oh gosh, I can get into the bathroom now and I can get a hot dog in less than three innings.'"
Dayton said he viewed both the Saints and Vikings projects as boosts for the construction industry and revitalization for downtown areas. But the governor who served as chief cheerleader for the Vikings stadium wouldn't say whether he would be at the new Saints ballpark on opening day.