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Alderwoman drops lawsuit over Scottrade upgrades, clearing the way for financing deal

The interior of the Scottrade Center on Jan. 2, 2017.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
The interior of the Scottrade Center on Jan. 2, 2017.

Updated Dec. 11 at 9:30 a.m. with a copy of the agreement — A St. Louis alderwoman and two other city residents have dropped a lawsuit challenging the use of public money to make upgrades to the Scottrade Center.

A circuit court judge was scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Monday. The agreementremoves one of the last legal barriers to a plan passed in February that requires the city to sell about $100 million in bonds to finance improvements such as a new scoreboard and ice-making equipment.

The suitby Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, and two other opponents of public funding for sports stadiums alleged that the state’s constitution forbids public money from being used to benefit private companies. It also claimed the 1992 lease between the city and the owners of the St. Louis Blues makes it clear St. Louis isn’t responsible for any upgrades to Scottrade.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Spencer said the financial stakes were “too high” to continue with the legal battle. Lawyers for Kiel Center Partners, which owns the Scottrade Center, had claimed the lawsuit was frivolous and had demanded that Spencer and the two others personally pay the attorneys fees for both sides.

The agreement says both sides will pay their own expenses, and prevents the opponents from making any other legal effort to block the Scottrade project. Spencer must also drop her efforts to come up with another way to finance the improvements.

“I have no doubt that had we taken this to the Supreme Court, the taxpayers of the City of St. Louis would have prevailed,” Spencer said. “The City can’t continue to make ill-informed financial decisions and remain solvent. And while the Scottrade transaction is behind us, I am hopeful that we have learned from these events and that the city and the general public are better for our efforts.”

A spokesman for Kiel Center Partners said he believes the agreement removes the last impediment to getting the bonds sold. But Comptroller Darlene Green is still challenging a judge’s order issued last week that forced her to sign the financing agreement.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.