Convention Draws Fire for Spending

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.

  • Frost Williams

    Considering that Los Angeles hosted ASAE last year, and in one-years time, they have confirmed close to $50 million in future convention business, I see this as money very well-spent for the entire St. Louis hospitality industry and community as a whole.

  • B

    If the upside for the event is $187 mil in future economic impact for our region, then it looks like a pretty good return on investment.

    When you consider the fact that the entertainment cost was only $150 per concert attendee ($750k divided by 5000 attendees), that’s very reasonably priced entertainment for an evening out in the city to attend an unique event.

    An event, remember, that was open to the public and served as a nice welcome to a group of folks who hopefully have a few good reasons to return to STL in the future.

  • Phil Bruno

    As a resident, I’m happy to see that tourism leaders are taking the steps necessary to reduce my tax burden by collecting more taxes from meeting and event delegates. It takes money to make money and if this investment will yield the kind of return noted in the story, then I’m all for it.

  • Len Toenjes

    Our region really needs to make positive investments of this type to build a polish a positive image for our community. I have high praise for the way that our local leaders made this investment in a positive future for our city. We can not afford not to undertake these types of projects.

  • Linda Raynes

    We should have been concerned if our city had NOT invested in this event and meeting. As an attendee, I can say there is a lot of great buzz about St. Louis from my fellow association executives. The investment the city is making is minor – very minor – compared to the potential benefit.

    The CVC and the city, as well as the hospitality and association communities in the region, have done a terrific job and should be commended.

  • Anthony Lancia

    Funds have been invested to spark future investment. If you want low risk and low return, spend less money. The CVC did their homework and invested a good amount to receive a larger return. ASAE convention participants have a track record of praising and revisiting a city or trash talking and not returning to a city. I would like their praise and their future business.

  • Ed Golterman

    Parties under the Arch have so ‘run their course’ and not what impresses decision-makers especially for wintertime conventions, Downtown performing arts centers-under one roof, with multiple choices-at minimum. St. Louis offered the best for decades. Is Ratdcliffe taking them through Kiel Opera House? And, the greatest outdoor theater in America?.It opened in time for an international Ad Club’s convention. Knocked their socks off. Is she taking them to MUNY? The Arch is not a ‘call to action’ to book St. Louis. Kiel and MUNY are. Agree with Sullivan.

  • Denise Hasty

    As a participant in the conference, the buzz amongst the attendees has been very positive about St. Louis. The immensely favorable impression left amongst these 5000+ association executiives will remain in their minds as they plan future meetings of their own individual associations. Those meetings, if brought to St. Louis, will pump more funds into our economy. This is an investment. I beliieve the CVC, the Mayor and the St. Louis County Executive are to be commended for their support of such an influential group of meeting organizers.

  • Nancy Valentine

    The investment the city has made to this event is money well spent to impress key executives that are true decision makers that annually book events across the country. St. Louis has never had this opportunity come to our city before. I commend CVC, St. Louis City and County for putting forth our best showing possible for this influential group. You only get to make a first impression once. I’m proud St. Louis made the most of this opportunity.

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