JEFFERSON CITY - While Missouri's governor announced the latest details of his plan to help the St. Louis Cardinals build a new ballpark, the most powerful man in the state legislature said it was not his priority.
Gov. Bob Holden insisted the proposal is not simply about building a ballpark, but about economic revitalization.
"From the very beginning, in my mind, this was not about building a ballpark," Holden said. "This is about helping to revitalize an urban area of this state that I think for the years ahead, we've got to revitalize."
Even with Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, and the top Republicans in the legislature, Rep. Catherine Hanaway of St. Louis County and Sen. Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau, backing the plan, it still faces an uphill battle in passing the legislature.
House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, said helping the Cardinals will not be a priority for him.
"Do you see my eyes? They're tired." Kreider said. "We're dealing with a $1 billion budget crisis. We are trying to fund public education, and stadiums just aren't very high on my priority list at this time."
Kreider maintained that his focus right now is on balancing the state budget. Holden has come under increasing fire for the budget he proposed to the legislature last month.
Because of his leadership role, Kreider has the ability to block any bill from coming to a vote in the House. But he said Tuesday he would not do that.
"I could have put them in my drawer, but I didn't," Kreider continued. "It's all about priorities. Right now the priorities are funding education and finishing the budget."
The governor maintained that the deal will not cost the state a dime. Money used to pay off the bonds will come entirely from new revenue created by the new development, he said.
The stadium plan requires the team to develop the site of the existing stadium with a mixture of residential, commercial and entertainment uses, known as Ballpark Village.
The first phase of construction will be the new stadium, which will be completed by April 2006. After that, the team must begin work on Ballpark Village in 2006 and finish the first phase within five years at an estimated cost of $100 million. The Village's second phase is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
If the Cardinals do not meet the deadlines of the first phase, they will have to pay a $100 million penalty over a 26-year period. The proceeds of the penalty will be split evenly by the city and state. If the team does not begin construction of the Village's second phase on time, it will forfeit the land.
The plan calls for the state to issue $100 million in bonds, with St. Louis city contributing another $60 million and St. Louis County $45 million. The spending must first be approved by the state legislature, city Board of Aldermen and County Council.
Under the agreement, the team will put forth $108 million toward the ballpark in addition to the land on which the stadium will be built.
The deal calls for the team to sign a 35-year lease as soon as the state begins issuing bonds. In addition, if the team is sold, a portion of the profits will be given back to the governments which helped build the stadium.