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Wild, Saints Bringing Badly-Needed Business Back To Downtown St. Paul

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- After more than a year of feeling out of tune, a welcomed rhythm is returning to St. Paul's Lowertown neighborhood.

Fans of the St. Paul Saints made their way to CHS Field past a band jamming out across the street, many of whom enjoyed a bite to eat nearby first.

"I think it keeps a lot of them afloat and it's just a great experience too for the average fan," said Daniel Haider of Forest Lake.

He and his son stopped by Dark Horse Bar and Eatery ahead of the baseball game. It's a classic example of an out-of-towner visiting the city, lured in by a big event, and spending money in a sector eager to see more customers.

"Once things go back to full capacity, then we'll really see it," said Patrick Whelen, co-owner of Dark Horse, of pre-pandemic foot traffic. "We're really excited about what's going to be happening over the next couple of months to kind of really give us that new barometer of what the neighborhood's gonna be like."

Minnesota Wild Fans
(credit: CBS)

Any boost is appreciated after a tough 2020. Visit St. Paul said travel and tourism businesses in Ramsey County lost around $1 billion in sales last year, and 15,000 to 20,000 jobs.

But clearly, there's a buzz returning from one side of town to the other. Minnesota Wild fans lined West 7th Street Thursday evening for the playoff game at the Xcel Energy Center, clad in green -- and spending it.

"New Bohemia is only open right now because we have playoffs and events at the Xcel," said Matt McGough, director of operations for New Bohemia USA and Truck Park USA, neighboring restaurants along West 7th Street. "So we're just so excited for the fans to be back down here, the customers to be back down here, and the staff to be back down here."

While large, indoor events like concerts have yet to return to the Saint Paul RiverCentre, there is one consistent event going on there that has brought in some customers to nearby businesses: COVID-19 vaccination clinics and testing.

"We've seen a lot of people come down, they get done getting their shot and they'll come down and have a beer here, they'll have a bite to eat here," said McGough.

As for actual concerts, McGough doesn't anticipate that to ramp up at the major arenas downtown until mid-summer.


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