Cardinals finalize public financing for new ballpark

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Capping a lengthy journey that included a flirtation with Illinois and a failed trip to Jefferson City in search of public funding, the Cardinals said Tuesday the club has obtained the private money it needs to build a new ballpark downtown.

Busch Stadium, which opened in 1966 and was home to history that included two World Series championships and Mark McGwire's record setting 70th home run in 1998, will be demolished after the 2005 season. Work on the new stadium began Monday, and the new $387.5 million ballpark is scheduled to open in April 2006.

The official groundbreaking is set for Jan. 17.

"When we purchased the Cardinals prior to the 1996 season we made a commitment to baseball's best fans that we would do what was necessary to enhance the proud tradition of success this great franchise has enjoyed for over 100 years," William O. Dewitt Jr., the team's chairman and general partner, said in a prepared statement.

"Today's announcement underscores our commitment to ensure the Cardinals remain a stable, winning franchise for years to come."

The Cardinals will continue to play at Busch Stadium in 2004 and 2005. Immediately after the 2005 season, Busch Stadium will be demolished to make way for the outfield portion of the new ballpark, which will be built directly south of Busch Stadium, said team spokesman Brian Bartow.

The new stadium will be owned by the Cardinals and financed with private bonds, which the team must repay, bank loans, cash from team owners and a long-term loan from St. Louis County. Lamping said some of the guaranteed income that attracted private investment comes from commitments to purchase 52 of 63 luxury suites at the new ballpark.

The financing includes:

Private bonds worth $200.5 million, to be retired over 22 years. Cardinals President Mark Lamping said by phone in New York that the bonds were funded Tuesday, though the commitments were made several weeks ago. The Cardinals must make payments of $15.9 million each year on the bonds.

A "down payment" worth $90.1 million, funded by a combination of bank loans and cash investment from team owners.

A $45 million loan from St. Louis County, supported by a dedicated hotel/motel tax, which the Cardinals must repay with interest.

-- Interest worth $9.2 million, earned on the borrowed money before it's spent on stadium construction.

-- State tax credits worth $30.4 million, and $12.3 million from the Missouri Department of Transportation, which will pay for site work, infrastructure and an interstate ramp project. An existing ramp will be demolished to make way for the new ballpark.

The Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums, a local advocacy group that vigorously fought a failed deal with the city, county and Gov. Bob Holden to publicly fund a new stadium, said Tuesday it will continue its efforts to place an issue on the ballot in St. Louis County that would forbid spending tax money on a stadium subsidy.

Work at the new ballpark site began Monday, with crews removing trees and light posts in a parking lot south of Busch Stadium and the Transportation Department setting up a detour for motorists who use the I-40 highway ramp.

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