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Convention center delay, north county add-on to cost taxpayers extra $88M, official says

The cost of the $210 million expansion of America’s Center is to be split evenly between the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The St. Louis County Council’s delay in approving the county’s $105 million share of bonds for the downtown convention center project — aimed at adding a recreation facility in north St. Louis County — will cost taxpayers an extra $88.2 million over 25 years, officials said Wednesday.

The cost of the $210 million expansion of America’s Center, which officially kicked off Tuesday with a groundbreaking, is to be split evenly between the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County. The city in 2020 approved issuing bonds for its share and sold them in October 2020.

The county’s $105 million in bonds were issued Wednesday and purchased by Wells Fargo at an interest rate of 4.56%, up from the 1.56% projection from the county’s financial adviser last July, figures that were given to the County Council in August.

At that time, Council Chair Rita Days began withholding support for a bill authorizing the county to issue its share of bonds, saying that Explore St. Louis, the tourism agency that operates America's Center, had promised to build a North County recreation center in exchange for the funding, a charge the agency denied.

County officials in April resolved the standoff by agreeing to fund a recreation facility at a cost up to $40 million with bond funds, but the bond market’s interest rates have spiked in the nine months since the county first projected interest rates on the bonds.

With the higher rate, county taxpayers will pay more on the debt over 25 years, according to figures from the county.

If the bonds had been issued last summer at 1.56% interest, the total cost, including interest, would have amounted to $127 million over 25 years, the county said. Now payments will total nearly $215 million, an increase of $88.2 million, the government said.

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