Cards to travel private road-Team signs on non-public financing

Saturday, November 16, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals on Friday edged closer to building a new stadium downtown, signing an agreement to pursue private financing for the project.

It would be only the second privately funded ballpark in recent years. Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, which opened in 2000, was the other. Property Funding Group of Washington, D.C., will be responsible for obtaining the financing and structuring the plan.

Rick Gross, president of Property Funding Group, said he expects funding to be in place within six months. Plans call for the $325 million, 45,000-seat stadium to be ready by Opening Day 2006.

Cardinals president Mark Lamping did not rule out seeking limited public funding from St. Louis city and county, but said the state will not be asked to participate. State lawmakers earlier this year refused to sign onto a plan that would have provided $644 million over 30 years to stadiums in St. Louis and Kansas City.

The new ballpark would be built in a retro style -- brick exterior, grass field, seats close to the field -- with a view of the Gateway Arch towering over center field. Unlike the circular Busch Stadium -- built as a multi-purpose stadium that also was home to the NFL's football Cardinals before they left in 1987 -- the new ballpark will feature a mostly-open look in the outfield.

Amenities would include more restrooms and concessions, escalators and elevators, more seating for fans with disabilities and play areas for children. It would also feature 60 private suites.

The plan was initially proposed by Mayor Francis Slay after plans for the publicly financed stadium fell apart.

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