Work continues to fund new Cardinals stadium

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) -- The St. Louis County Council could decide next week on a plan to lend the St. Louis Cardinals $45 million for a new stadium.

The council took up the funding again at its Monday meeting, but did not vote on it.

While some members of the public spoke out against the plan, council members did not express opposition to the funding proposal.

Cardinals president Mark Lamping said at the meeting that construction deadlines are approaching. "We have our private financing in place, and we plan to begin construction before the end of the year."

The ballpark, planned for south of Busch Stadium, will cost roughly $400 million.

Cardinals owners also have committed to redeveloping part of a six-block area known as Ballpark Village. The plan is to have restaurants and other businesses that will appeal to fans. That project is expected to cost $250 million.

Supporters handed out spreadsheets trying to show more private investment in the St. Louis ballpark than in 15 other ballparks built since 1991.

The figures do not include the money that is to come from the county, because that is technically a loan. In addition, the state is providing $30.2 million in tax credits; the city is giving up a ticket tax that was worth $3.4 million last year; and the state Department of Transportation is tearing down and relocating ramps to Highway 40 near the ballpark site, work worth $12.3 million.

Critics of the plan contended the county money can't truly be considered a loan because the Cardinals are not obligated to repay it for at least 30 years. The bonds that the county is issuing will have cost $108 million in principal and interest, and that money will come from the county's tax on hotel and motel guests.

However, council member Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury, said the team will be required to pay $148 million in cash or deed the stadium and land to the public. He said at that point, the county would get what it is owed before other creditors.

Fred Lindecke, a member of the Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums, said he will keep collecting signatures to put a measure on the county ballot next November. It would require a public vote before public money is spent on stadiums.

The vote would come after the Cardinals stadium is under construction, but Lindecke said he believes that the council could not make annual commitments of bond revenues to the project if voters approve his measure.

If it reached that point, Odenwald said a judge would have to decide. However, he said, "I would think it would not affect us, if we have already passed the legislation authorizing the project."

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