St. Louis to consider funding to upgrade Scottrade Center

The owners of the facility are asking for the first major renovation in the building's history.

From power plays to powerful performances, Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis has entertained 30 million people since it opened in 1994.

It's also contributed to more than $100 million in new sales tax revenue to the city and supported thousands of jobs in various industries.

"Scottrade Center is the gift that keeps on giving," said Mayor Francis Slay at a press conference Tuesday.

But even those who were hired to manage the city-owned facility admit that it is beginning to show its age.

"One of the things I tell my staff and friends sometimes is when I walked into the building first is, 'Hey, the 90's called and they'd like their stuff back,'" said Alex Rodrigo, the Group Vice-President for Scottrade Center.

And because of the arena's deteriorating condition, there is now growing concern, city leaders said Tuesday, about losing key events in the future, like the NCAA basketball tournament.

Such events pump millions of dollars into the local economy through direct spending in hotels, restaurants and other businesses, officials said.

"The ability to attract these events is now very, very much at risk," said Tom Stillman, the Chairman of the St. Louis Blues.

The hockey franchise is the primary tenant of Scottrade Center and leases the facility from the city. Its ownership group has also been the sole source of private funding, into the millions of dollars, for ongoing maintenance and repairs.

But now, under a multimillion dollar redevelopment proposal, the ownership group Is leaning on the city and state for additional financial support to modernize the arena within three years.

Stillman said during a news conference that the Blues could no longer afford such an expense alone, and city leaders agreed.

"We need to take care of our building," Slay said.

The private-public partnership calls for $90 million in investment from the Blues.

It also calls for the city to issue nearly $70 million in bonds that, if approved, would be paid off over 25 years using a new 1% sales tax on tickets to Scottrade and the adjacent Peabody Opera House.

The city would also contribute $4 million annually to help pay off the loans from tax revenue already generated by the arena.

But such large asks have garnered widespread criticism at city hall by those who argue the city's priorities are not in order.

"I do not take the votes by the board of aldermen for granted," Slay said. "Never have. Never will. We need to make our case."

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed agreed in anticipating possible backlash from his fellow elected officials, who've previously pushed for more funding for police and roads.

"It'll be anything but smooth," he said.

And that's just for phase one of the project.

Phase two will require the city and Scottrade officials to request support from the state that could total $6 million annually.

Officials said they plan on meeting with the administration of incoming Missouri Governor Eric Greitens "soon."

They were remaining cautiously optimistic about his reaction given this recent comments shutting down any public funding for a new soccer stadium downtown.

But the price of doing nothing, Stillman argued, would be much higher for the city and the region.

"The arena will become a declining city asset and it will no longer attract these city events," he said.

And the possible payoff?

The St. Louis Sports Commission has indicated that if the renovations are completed, the city will be able to contend to host an NHL All-Star game and the U.S. Olympic trials for figure skating.

It's expected the first of several readings for the funding bill will be Friday morning.


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