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The Senate passes the MU arena; Holden doesn't sound enthusiastic

May 16, 2001
By: Maggie Rotermund
State Capital Bureau
Links: HCR 25

JEFFERSON CITY - Tiger fans have something to cheer about--the House-passed MU arena proposal cleared the Senate Wednesday. The resolution now needs the governor's signature to become law.

The fate of the arena now sits solely on the shoulders of Gov Bob. Holden.

"I have to look at the bill--I need to examine its' fiscal impact for the state," said Holden. "I am a little concerned that it did not go through normal channels."

The resolution authorizes the state to issue up to $35 million in revenue bonds. The state money would supplement a $25 million anonymous donation and $15 million in additional funds from the university.

"This resolution secures the anonymous donation for the arena," said Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia. "We have made a commitment and I think that this is going to get done."

The resolution faced a stiff competitor in Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County, who offered the only amendment to the bill. Goode wanted the bonds to be authorized through capital appropriations.

But the House sponsor, Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said the legislature still will have an opportunity to vote on the bonds.

Goode, on the other hand, argued that the resolution circumvented the state's appropriation process and would open the floodgates for other buildings that wish to skirt around the legislature's process.

Goode was supported by Sen. Marvin Singleton, R-Senaca, who said that he was upset that the resolution had not gone through the usual appropriations process.

Both senators said the University should either issue the bonds themselves or find another way to raise the money.

But other senators disagreed. "Only in the state of Missouri can an anonymous donor offer $25 million and get slapped in the face," said Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County.

Others suggested Goode was not just thinking of the state's fiscal situation. "I seem to remember, about 10 years ago, that we issued millions of dollars for a new performing arts center at UMSL," said Jacob.

Klarich agreed. "I hope that if something like this comes up at UMSL, which is in your district, that you don't think that it is an evil and sinister plot to undermine the appropriation process."

The vote came in just under the wire, with only two days left in Missouri's legislative session. The anonymous gift was contingent on the understanding that the legislature would pass the state bonds by the end of this session.

The donation was secured by the Bank of America for one year, at a cost to the donor of $187,000. The bank guarantee came after questions arose about the validity of the donation.

The money is a sure thing, but donor is anyone's guess. His or her name remains a mystery, but Jacob said he thinks the donor might come out in the open soon.

"I think he might come out soon." said Jacob. "I know there was concern with putting athletics over academics, but I can tell you that the donor has given millions to the University for education in the past and hopefully, will continue to do so in the future."

The resolution passed 25-8. "This is great," said Graham. "We didn't think that we had 25 votes."

Graham's sentiment was echoed in the MU athletic department.

"Obviously, we are thrilled and very pleased with both the vote and the overwhelming nature of the vote," said Assistant Athletic Director Gene McArtor.

"We knew all along that this was a multiple step process. We have gone through two steps now and we know that we still need the approval of the governor," said McArtor.

When the bonds are issued, they will be for $2.7 million over 20 years.