St. Louis County Council pitches in for new Cardinals stadium

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals expect to break ground on a new stadium by the end of the year, after the St. Louis County Council agreed unanimously Tuesday to sell about $45.6 million in bonds to support the project.

County officials said $45 million of that will go to the Cardinals as a loan. The county bonds will go to market later this month. They will be repaid with proceeds from the county's hotel-motel tax.

The private part of the stadium financing should close Dec. 18, and the new stadium is scheduled to open for the 2006 season.

Cardinals owners are contributing at least $50 million of their own money. The team also has committed $60 million to developing a commercial and office complex.

The stadium project is expected to cost about $400 million.

A group opposed to public financing of stadiums said they'll still work to put a measure on the November 2004 ballot. It would not allow government to approve public money for a sports complex without a public vote, but efforts will still move forward at this point to build the stadium.

The Cardinals have been talking about a new stadium since 1995. This plan uses state tax credits, state payments for highway work, and the county loan to come up with $87.5 million in public funds.

All five of the council members present voted for the bill. Richard "Skip" Mange, R-Town and Country, distributed a memo saying he supported the bill, but he could not vote because he was on vacation.

The council's seventh seat is currently vacant. Former council member Charlie Dooley was selected to become county executive after the death in October of executive George R. "Buzz" Westfall. Dooley said he supported the effort, and said it would benefit the area for years.

"This is a 30-year commitment by the county," Dooley said. "If we cannot make a 30-year commitment to the community, we live in the wrong community, folks."

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