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MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

Stadium bill would spread money around the state

May 07, 2002
By: Robert Sandler
State Capital Bureau

Sponsor: Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau
Description: stadiums and economic development
Current Status: given preliminary approval by Senate
Next Step: awaiting hearing of Senate State Budget Control Committee and final approval from full Senate

JEFFERSON CITY - Despite strong opposition from some legislators, the stadium and economic development bill cleared a major hurdle in the state legislature this week.

Late Thursday night, the Senate adopted a new version of the bill that could cost up to $644 million over 30 years by a 19-14 vote and gave it preliminary approval.

It faced 17 hours of debate over two days and close to 40 amendments in the process.

The major impetus for the spending is that the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team wants a new stadium to play in and wants government help to build it. And while the St. Louis ballpark gets most of the attention, other provisions in the bill would actually get more money.

* The bill would give $294 million to Kansas City for a bistate metropolitan cultural district. The district contains counties in Kansas and Missouri that vote to participate in a separate taxing district that gives money to arts and culture programs. No state money could go to the district unless voters there agree to renew the district in this fall's election.

Some of the money is expected go to the publicly owned Truman Sports Complex -- home to Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums -- but the bill does not require it. The state's expenditure would be $9.8 million annually over 30 years starting in 2006.

* The bill also allows for the construction of a $12.5 million exposition center in Springfield. The state would put out $9 million of that cost, but because it would be paid out over 23 years with interest, the state's total contribution could reach $18 million.

* One part of the bill that some legislators think is the best investment is the construction of a convention center and arena in Branson. Their total cost would be about $75 million. Starting in 2005, the state would pay $1.4 million a year for 23 years, capped at $32 million.

* The St. Louis part of the bill that gets less attention would give money to the Savvis Center arena, now home to the Blues hockey team. The arena would be allowed to keep $3 million of the state tax revenue it generates annually beginning in 2005. The intention is that if a pro basketball team comes, the money will be used to make improvements to the building.

But if the basketball team doesn't materialize, one-third of that money would go into a reserve fund for rehabbing an old opera house adjacent to the arena.

While plans for most of those projects are relatively straightforward, the construction of a new stadium in St. Louis is wildly complicated. It takes up 35 pages of the bill. By contrast, the Kansas City part uses less than four pages.

The Cardinals' plan would create a new stadium authority in St. Louis which would sell $100 million of bonds so the stadium could be built. The team would be required to contribute the land for the new stadium and $120 million in cash.

The stadium authority would be composed of nine members -- two each appointed by the mayor of St. Louis and the county executive of St. Louis County as well as five by the governor. The authority would then have the responsibility of selling the bonds and contracting for the construction of the stadium, which it would then own.

A ballpark would then be built just south of Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis, with the expectation that it would open for the 2005 season. But in order to finish the stadium, Busch would have to be demolished. Construction would continue through the 2005 season to be completed before the 2006 season started.

But then the site of the old Busch would be mostly a wasteland except for the small part needed to complete the new ballpark.

So on the site of the old stadium the team would have to build a massive development to be called Ballpark Village -- the real key to the deal. Gov. Bob Holden and many of the supportive senators cite Ballpark Village as the reason they support the plan.

The $300 million Village would include residential, office, entertainment and retail space. The bill would require that the team have the Village at least half finished by April 2011 -- five years after the ballpark itself would be complete.

If the Village is not half-finished by then, the team would pay a $100 million penalty, with $35 million of that due April 1, 2011. The rest of the penalty would be spread out over the balance of the lease.

A variety of provisions designed to protect taxpayers are included in the bill, including holding the team to a 35-year lease. It also stipulates that the naming rights to the stadium will be held by the stadium authority, not the team. Naming rights to other stadiums have fetched hundreds of millions of dollars.

The bill faced staunch opposition in the Senate, but not enough to vote it down. Before it finally clears the Senate, the bill must be approved by a budget control committee and then finally passed by the full Senate.

But much greater opposition is expected in the House.

That may doom the St. Louis and Kansas City projects, but proponents of the southwest Missouri projects say their projects will be funded regardless.

Budget bills that have passed the House and Senate contain placeholder provisions for the Springfield and Branson projects. This year's appropriation to both projects is only $1,000, but lawmakers inserted it to remind themselves to appropriate more in the future.

What may be the real kicker on this spending bill is that all of the spending is deferred. The state won't have to pay off bonds until 2005 or 2006, depending on the project. And starting in 2005, the state would give back half of the tax revenue generated by the Springfield and Branson projects.

Lawmakers are dealing with a major shortfall in the budget for this year and next year. But supporters of the bill say the spending won't be a problem because the state won't owe any money for a few years yet.

The House and Senate must finish business by May 17, as mandated in the state constitution.