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Convention Draws Fire for Spending

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) - A big bash under the Arch might seem the ideal St. Louis experience for out-of-towners, but one taxpayer watchdog is bashing last Saturday’s party.

The Convention and Visitors Commission is hosting a visiting group of convention planners, hoping to draw future conventions to the city. However, taxpayer advocate Tom Sullivan says the $750,000 maximum budget for the opening event hit citizens where it hurts.

“By anybody’s standards, $750,000 is a lot of money for a party,” Sullivan says. “I mean, Donald Trump doesn’t spend that kind of money.”

This price tag only covers the opening night festivities for the convention. CVC President Kitty Ratcliffe says the commission paid $100,000 for entertainer Michael McDonald’s concert alone. She says more costs added up when security, food and set-up were all taken into account.

Ratcliffe notes that $250,000 of the funds is coming from out-of-towners through the St. Louis County hotel-motel tax, which is earmarked to promote tourism. She also says that many corporate sponsors chipped in for the convention.

Even with this aid, Sullivan says the price tag is simply too high.

“Obviously if you’re going to have entertainment, if you’re going to have food, if you’re going to have drinks, there are going to be some costs involved – but how they can get it up to three-quarters of a million dollars, I don’t know,” he says.

Earlier estimations from the CVC say the convention could attract as much as $187 million for St. Louis in future event bookings, provided the visitors are pleased with the city. But Sullivan remains skeptical of this plan.

“If you assume that it’s a good idea to entertain this particular group to try to impress them, I think you could do it for a lot less,” Sullivan says.

The convention wraps up tomorrow.

Copyright KMOX Radio.

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