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House panel endorses stadium deal

May 8, 2002
By: Robert Sandler
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 1279

JEFFERSON CITY - The state spending bill on stadiums and economic development passed another hurdle Thursday when it received a favorable vote from the House Commerce Committee.

The bill would provide up to $644 million of state spending over 30 years for stadiums in St. Louis and Kansas City as well as convention centers in Springfield and Branson.

"Pending on the outcome of this bill is the question of whether Missouri will continue to have two major league ball teams," said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, and sponsor of the bill.

The bill was amended over 20 times during Senate debate last week. Most of the amendments tightened restrictions on the St. Louis parts of the bill. But team owner Bill DeWitt said he was still committed to building a new ballpark in Missouri.

"The bill has been modified to the benefit of the public bodies and to the detriment of the Cardinals, but we still fully support this project going forward, and will do what we have to do to make it happen," DeWitt said.

Cardinals team President Mark Lamping has said this is the last year the team will try to get the state to approve spending, and if the state fails to do so, the team may lobby Illinois officials for a stadium there.

"This is the last time I'll be in front of a House committee," said Lamping. "We're prepared to go forward, but this is our last time down here."

The House committee adopted a number of amendments that were designed to increase minority participation on the project and tighten the restrictions on the Cardinals.

Rep. Richard Byrd, R-St. Louis County, successfully added an amendment that would split the proposed Ballpark Village development into six parts, five of which must be completed by the end of 2011. The Village as proposed could include residential, office and retail space as well as parking. The bill had previously required that only half of the Village be finished in 2011.

Opponents of the bill like Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis County, claimed that the original language that had been agreed to by the state and the team was misleading. He said the agreement required the team to complete just one of the proposed components to the Village.

The bill passed the committee by an 11-8 vote. Its major supporters in the House include the assistant majority floor leader, Jim Foley, D-St. Louis County, and Republican leader Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County. But even with support of those leaders, most House members say the bill is about 30 votes short of passage.