North St. Paul batting cages might strike out due to rent increases

For decades in North St. Paul, Dennis Bartholomew has had a special thing going at the Triple Crown Batting Cages. 

Back in 1993, he paid for the construction of the facility on city land and then gifted the facility to the city in an agreement that would allow him to continue to run the business rent-free.

But this year, Bart says newly elected leadership in city hall is reversing course. As his agreement expires they’re demanding he start paying rent on his gift to the city: a total of $125,000 over five years.

At a Tuesday night city council meeting, about a dozen homeowners came to speak in Bartholomew’s defense during a public comment session.

City leaders ultimately voted to extend Triple Crown’s current agreement through Aug. 31, while they continue to negotiate a rent structure going forward.

"For me the hardest part is setting a precedent to give free rent to a for-profit business," council member Jason Nordby said during the meeting.

But now Bartholomew says that might put him out of business. 

"Can I make this happen? At that price, I don’t know," Bartholomew said. "If I give it a year to look at that, and I give you back an empty building, I guess you can do something with it."