St. Louis mayor signs stadium bill

Thursday, March 21, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- The rhetoric was the same and the outcome not a surprise, but Mayor Francis Slay was still excited Wednesday as he signed legislation approving the city's role in building the St. Louis Cardinals a new facility to replace the aging Busch Stadium.

"All right!," Slay said with a flourish of his pen. "There you go!"

Slay wasted no time signing the bill, which was passed Friday by the city's Board of Aldermen on a 22-5 vote.

The law commits the city to spending $4.2 million a year for 30 years for a total of $126 million.

The city's portion is part of a complex deal between the team, city, county and state to replace Busch Stadium with a $346 million downtown ballpark.

Commitment sealed

One of the first issues tackled by Slay after he defeated former Mayor Clarence Harmon in the mayoral race last year, the proposed retro-style stadium facility would open for play in 2005 and seat approximately 49,000.

But the deal must still be approved by the St. Louis County Council and in the state legislature, where opposition to the plan is much more fierce.

The state's share would be no more than $7 million a year for 30 years, a total of $210 million over 30 years, with the county contributing about $2 million annually out of its lodging tax.

As he had in the past, Slay said the city's quick action to approve its part of the deal sends a strong signal to state lawmakers that "St. Louis wants this."

The total public portion of the stadium's construction cost is about 58 percent, with the Cardinals organization slated to pay for the rest, including any cost overruns and operating and maintenance expenses.

The stadium is the larger part of a $646 million development that includes a $300 million Ballpark Village.

The village would be a neighborhood of commercial, residential and retail development adjacent to the new baseball stadium.

Bill includes add-ons

The legislation under consideration in Jefferson City includes several additional projects, including state funding for improvements to the Kansas City stadiums where the Chiefs football and Royals baseball teams play.

An effort to add state tax credits for the St. Louis Blues and the Savvis Center is also under way. While Slay said he'd support a measure that helps the Blues professional hockey team invest in their arena, "I don't want anything tacked onto the bill that would jeopardize its ability to get passed."

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