ST. LOUIS (KMOX)-In recent weeks St. Louis Aldermen have fast-tracked plans to renovate the Scottrade Center and seek voter approval to build a new soccer stadium. Meanwhile, proposals to renovate the America’s Center and the Dome have been gathering dust.
A recent study recommends $500 million in upgrades to the convention center and Dome.
Explore St. Louis President Kitty Ratcliffe tells KMOX it’s a bit more challenging to get St. Louisans to pay attention to the convention center’s needs, because they attend events at the Scottrade Center, and will at the soccer stadium if it is built.
“They know the buildings and they love the buildings and they love the sports and the events that that represents. Our customers are primarily from out of town,” she says.
Another issue is the ownership of the two facilities. The city of St. Louis owns the America’s Center while the Dome is owned by the city, St. Louis County and the state of Missouri. The complex is funded with a 3.5 percent tax on hotel rooms in St. Louis city and county and state sales tax money collected on hotel bookings. About $100 million in bond payments is still owed on the Dome. Ratcliffe says refinancing and extending the bonds, which would not require voter approval, would raise about $350 million.
Ratcliffe says she has been in talks with the city for quite some time. As for the county, “The County Executive (Steve Stenger) took office two years ago and has had a lot of priorities on his plate. But we have been working with his staff to keep them apprised of what we’re doing and working with them to get them to a place where they feel comfortable in making some continued investment.”
She says the recent leadership change at the state level is another challenge. “We’ve had some transitions as of late in state government, so getting the state to the table will be a little more complicated than it had been in years past.”
In the meantime, Ratcliffe says they’re still working on three designs for the improvements, which are dependent on their ability to make decisions on real estate.
“The building is landlocked in some ways. We’ve gotta decide whether we can design in the four walls that exist, or whether we need to make changes to those walls and some of the structures,” she says.
She says that could involve changes to nearby roads or parcels of land.
While it hasn’t gotten the attention of the other projects, Ratcliffe says improving the city’s convention facilities is vital to the region’s economy. “The economic element that comes to our community as a result of having the America’s Center complex is a massive part of our economy, but the majority of people we’re working to attract aren’t local voters. So we do have a little higher road to climb.”
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