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Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.

Opinion

Our mistake on the sports complex story

Providing accurate information to the community is a paramount goal of this newspaper. On a big story this week, we messed up. The City of Cape Girardeau is deliberating the development of a sports complex, funded by taxpayer dollars, to draw visitors to town for major sports tournaments during times of the year when hotels here traditionally have higher vacancy. Those hotel stays, and the visitors' use of local amenities, help drive economic development, which in turn lead to jobs and a higher quality of life for area residents.

On Tuesday night, the finalists for the sports complex were unveiled. Due to an editor's error, the printed story in Wednesday's Southeast Missourian (but not the online version) misreported a major component of one of the proposals. The printed story said, incorrectly: "MidAmerica is proposing to sell 10.27 acres at fair market value ... to be used for the construction of the facility and parking areas."

In fact, MidAmerica is proposing to donate the land at no cost to the city.

Because of the lower land acquisition cost, the MidAmerica proposal is able to offer additional amenities, including a second full-sized indoor soccer field (above the city's request-for-proposal specifications of one field) and still be below the overall cost limit as defined by the city.

My column's purpose is not to endorse one project over another. There are many details that the city council will need to scrutinize in each of the proposals. But in helping the public understand the deliberations, it's vital that the newspaper report the facts accurately. I wanted to set the record straight.

For those who are curious how the newspaper could report exactly opposite what was being offered in a specific proposal, the mistake was made by a night editor who misunderstood the proposal and in error changed a reporter's story without checking with the reporter or other editors.

What confused the night editor was the term in the original story, "donated at fair market value." For those who might not understand why it would be important to establish a "fair market value" on a donation, Phil Penzel, a project partner on the MidAmerica proposal, explained in a Wednesday morning email: "The reason for fair market value is to receive a fair tax credit for the donation."

As already stated, the point of this column is to set the record straight. The city opened its deliberation to the public, making this a transparent process. Each presenting group did a good job Tuesday night explaining its proposal, and there is much to be reviewed.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian: jrust@semissourian.com.

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