A bill filed by State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, has been garnering quite a bit of attention in recent days.
Senate Bill 469, is proposed up to $6 million in renovation funding for the aging Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The home of the St. Louis Blues. It was originally opened in 1994, and according to city officials is in need of more than $26 million in renovations to stay competitive with other sports venues in neighboring cities.
A hearing on Schatz’ bill was held last week by the Senate Economic Development Committee, which will make a recommendation to the full body for further passage.
Despite coming out completely against using public dollars for a proposed new Major League Soccer stadium in St. Louis, Gov. Eric Greitens met with those representing the Scottrade Center, which is owned by the city of St. Louis.
“After meeting with the governor, the Scottrade folks came to us about filing the bill,” Schatz said. “I know a lot of people are wary about using tax dollars for venues like this, but if you look at the return on the investment it makes sense.”
Schatz said he was not in the meeting with Greitens, but was told he was somewhat receptive to the idea, otherwise Schatz would not have filed the legislation.
“He (Greitens) didn’t say ‘no’ right away,” Schatz said. “There are 12 other entities (in Missouri) that would be eligible for this funding as well. If we don’t reinvest in these venues, we are going to start losing events to other cities.”
Schatz added when Scottrade opened 23 years ago, there were only four or five other facilities of its kind.
Now, they are competing with more than 20 nationwide.
“There have been four different ownership groups and it isn’t necessarily profitable,” Schatz said. “The Blues aren’t the only ones who draw to that facility. Ninety-five percent of the visitors are from out of town. That’s thousands of hotel rooms that can get filled when there is a big event.”
Although there are other legislators who represent St. Louis city, Schatz said he was approached to file the bill since his party is in the majority in the General Assembly, many of whom are against taxes going to projects like this.
“I know there are going to be people in our caucus who are opposed to the use of tax money,” Schatz said. “You have to look at the economic standpoint of it. I know the President Pro Tem (Ron Richard) is in favor of it.”
Schatz said he and others testified at the committee hearing, but they wouldn’t be taking any further action until after the legislative spring break.
The support of Senate leadership may help the bill move forward, but there is no guarantee it will even get a floor vote to move to the House.
“There are only seven weeks left in this session and there are a lot of bills on the calendar,” Schatz said. “Thus far, we’ve been moving very slowly and with major issues on labor and tort reform on the agenda, there is no way to predict what will happen.”
The language of the bill can be somewhat misleading since it amends a previous state statute relating to land clearance projects.
The act would allow the state or a public body to appropriate funds for the purpose of aiding and cooperating in the planning, undertaking or carrying out of a land clearance project.
A public body would be authorized to act to develop, construct, reconstruct, rehabilitate, repair or improve any tourism infrastructure facilities, as defined in the act.
Such state appropriation shall not exceed $6 million dollars per year for any one such agreement and shall be determined to produce a positive net fiscal impact for the state over the term of such agreement.