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Officials unveil plan to refurbish Scottrade Center

St. Louis Blues Chairman Tom Stillman and Lewis Reed, president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, leave the stage after presenting their ideas for improvements to the Scottrade Center.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI
St. Louis Blues Chairman Tom Stillman and Lewis Reed, president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, leave the stage after presenting their ideas for improvements to the Scottrade Center.

Some of St. Louis’ top officials are signing onto a large-scale renovation of the Scottrade Center, a facility that’s home of the St. Louis Blues and dozens of musical and sports-related events.

The plan comes as the owner of the Blues warns that the city could start losing lucrative events without the partially taxpayer-funded proposal.

“If we’re going to have the national events that we’ve become accustomed to and have the economic impact we had in the past, we’re going to need the city to invest alongside the Blues and Blues ownership,” said St. Louis Blues Chairman Tom Stillman.

Representatives of the Blues and the city of St. Louis unveiled the overhaul on Tuesday. Some of the money to spruce up the 22-year-old, city-owned facility would come from Blues ownership and a 1 percent ticket tax. And at least $4 million a year would come from city revenue, an annual cost that would be paid for 20 to 25 years.

The city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority would issue about $67.5 million in bonds to pay for the first phase of the renovation. According to a media packet, the city would “join the developer in seeking approval for state funding” for the second phase of the project. Chris Zimmerman, the president and CEO of Business Operations for the Blues, said the renovation would cost about $138 million. 

The interior of the Scottrade Center on Jan. 2, 2017.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
The interior of the Scottrade Center on Tuesday.

(While the state of Missouri has provided yearly payments to sports facilities in St. Louis and Kansas City, getting state funding may be a tough sell. Not only has the GOP-controlled legislature vocally opposed recent stadium proposals, but Gov.-elect Eric Greitens has stated he is against publicly funding stadiums.)

During the news conference, Stillman said that the Blues paid for the vast majority of the stadium construction in the 1990s – as well as maintenance and upkeep. He said without significant repairs, St. Louis would lose out on major events – and in turn lose revenue.

“The ability to attract these events is now very, very much at risk,” Stillman said. “In fact, the NCAA, the various conferences, the concert promoters have made clear that they are not going to continue coming to the Scottrade Center. And that’s not because St. Louis is getting outworked or getting outclassed by any other city. That is not the case. It’s just because the Scottrade Center is no longer competitive with the arenas in cities like Nashville, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Louisville and other markets of our size.”

Stillman said that the Scottrade Center generates about $14 million for the city and state. He emphasized that the $4 million a year would effectively come from the tax revenue generated from the facility.

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said the board could start debating legislation laying out the renovation plan this month. It’s possible that some aldermen may object to $4 million going to refurbishing an entertainment complex, as opposed to going to police, infrastructure or economic development.

But St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said if the Scottrade Center can’t compete for big events, the city might end up losing tax revenue anyway.

“This is about competition,” Slay said. “It’s not just about Blues and hockey. This is a multi-purpose facility. Only about 40 percent of its use is from hockey. But there are a lot of other events that we compete for on a national basis. And if we can’t compete, we will lose those events. I can tell you, I’ve been on a number of trips and presentations to organizations that we’re trying to compete for big events for our facilities. And there’s still competition out there.”

The proposal to overhaul the Scottrade Center comes as city leaders are deliberating whether to build a stadium to lure a Major League Soccer team to St. Louis. And the city’s convention and tourism officials have said that the city’s convention center and dome could need massive renovations as well.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.