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Lawsuit challenges legality of St. Louis arena's makeover
ST. LOUIS -- A lawsuit is seeking to halt a $64-million makeover of the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, arguing the publicly funded project is unconstitutional.
Friday's lawsuit on behalf of Alderwoman Cara Spencer, former state House Rep. Jeanette Oxford and former city counselor James Wilson names the city, the St. Louis Blues and the Blues' ownership group, Kiel Center Partners, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The filing of the lawsuit, which seeks to keep the city from paying for the project, came the same day St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green said through spokesman Tyson Pruitt she had no intention of signing the financial agreement that would fund the city's commitment to the arena.
"The comptroller has not approved the transaction to issue bonds for the renovation of Scottrade Center, as it would incur debt to the city's general fund for nonessential services and negatively impact the city's credit," Pruitt said.
Scottrade Center is the hope to the NHL's Blues, and the city owns the arena through a public-private partnership signed in 1992. Under that agreement, according to the lawsuit, the city's ownership of the building is limited to what is called a "bare legal title" where the Blues have exclusive control over the property for a half century.
But the lawsuit alleges a city ordinance illegally grants substantial public money to the project. Separately, Pruitt said the comptroller was asking other city officials to find a new way to fund the project, and her refusal to approve the bond transaction raises legal questions about the comptroller's ability to impede proposals passed by the city's governing board.
Members of that board who supported public financing for the renovations argued this year the city is obligated to pay because the city owns the building. The board approved funding for the upgrades in February. Coupled with interest on the bonds, the city is expected to pay $105 million on the project over 30 years.
Erich Vieth, the plaintiffs' attorney, said the original lease also stipulates that if the city covered the renovations, the owners would be obliged to pay it back in the form of increased rent. The Blues owners pay $1 a year in rent.
Koran Addo, a spokesman for St. Louis' mayor, said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press "while we won't comment on the merits of this particular litigation," the city's governing boards approved the ordinance in question.
"We will vigorously defend the city, its ordinances and agreements," the statement said.
Kiel Center Partners said in a statement it considered the lawsuit "frivolous," and Green has a legal obligation to sign the finance agreement.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com
Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Mo.