Stadium ballot issue moves forward with petition filing

Saturday, June 1, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- An effort that's been called anti-St. Louis by the mayor has taken another step, as a coalition against publicly funding a new Cardinals stadium filed 18,000 signatures with the city election board.

If at least 9,700 of those signatures filed Thursday are valid, the petition would require a citywide election. If voters approve it, any proposal to spend city money on a new stadium would require voter approval. The Board of Elections has 10 days to verify the signatures.

Jeanette Mott Oxford, who coordinated the coalition, said the call for a vote is not anti-St. Louis, as Mayor Francis Slay has alleged. And it is not a message that coalition members want the baseball team to move out of town, she said.

"We don't want the Cardinals to leave, and we don't believe they have to leave," Oxford said.

Leaving is an option the Cardinals are exploring. Illinois Gov. George Ryan said at a news briefing Thursday night that he was initially among those who don't think the team owners are serious about crossing the river.

Now, Ryan said, "I think they are. I didn't think so when I first heard about it. I thought maybe they were trying to use us to leverage a spot back in St. Louis. But I think they're very serious about coming here, and they're going to come back and give us a plan."

Ryan and several lawmakers met privately with Cardinals president Mark Lamping on Wednesday.

Depends on the numbers

Metro East legislators generally say they like the idea of bringing the Cardinals to Illinois, but they want hard numbers before committing any public resources to a new stadium. They acknowledged that spending public money for a stadium might not be popular with lawmakers outside of Southern Illinois.

"I don't have any objections to a new stadium," state Sen. Vince Demuzio, D-Carlinville, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It just depends on what the numbers are."

State Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, said, "We are not going to be able to put a lot of state money into this."

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs and the Cardinals planned to meet this summer to draw a proposal on how much a new stadium might cost the state. A new stadium could cost at least $300 million, according to some estimates.

"This will pass," state Rep. Kurt Granberg, D-Carlyle, said of a Cardinals stadium plan. He expected House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, to co-sponsor a bill supporting a new stadium as soon as this fall. The current session of the legislature ended Friday.

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