Lamping touts newest stadium funding bill

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Cardinals president Mark Lamping said a bill introduced this week helps support his claim that a stadium funded by public and private money would not be a risk to taxpayers.

The legislation, introduced late Monday by Rep. Jim Foley, D-St. Ann, would hold the team responsible for building the $300 million Ballpark Village, six city blocks of housing, retail and entertainment sites that would surround a proposed $346 million baseball stadium in downtown St. Louis.

Lamping, speaking Wednesday to members of the Cape Girardeau Lions Club, said the bill should help assure Missourians who, opinion polls show, do not support a plan to pay for the stadium with public funds.

"Having looked at stadium financing proposals all across the country, I don't know that there's one that has the level of protection for the taxpayers this one has," Lamping said. "I've had people tell me that we won't even go through with our plan to build the Ballpark Village, but I can promise you we will -- and now we'll be held responsible for it."

The state, under the proposed legislation, would pay $210 million over 30 years toward the cost of the stadium. The Cardinals would pay $138 million, the city of St. Louis $126 million and St. Louis County $95 million. Lamping said the legislation follows the team's plan to avoid direct costs to taxpayers -- the money to fund the stadium, he said, would come from the additional tax revenue generated by the stadium and Ballpark Village.

"The more people learn about the proposal, the more they like it," he said. "The more myths we eliminate, the more sense it makes."

Opponents cite studies that indicate stadiums do not pay for themselves, but the revenue instead comes from consumers who would have spent it on other forms of entertainment.

Lamping said that if legislation doesn't pass, the team will pursue a plan to build a privately owned stadium to be complete by 2006, possibly in suburban St. Louis or in neighboring Illinois.

"At some point, as a private business we'll have to move on," he said. "If it doesn't pass in this session, then the legislators have spoken clearly. We'll find another way to finance it, although it may not be a popular way."

jhall@semissourian.com

(573) 335-6611, extension 174

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