With the St. Louis Rams splitting for California, some policymakers want to spruce up the Scottrade Center and the city’s convention center. And St. Louis County could play a role in chipping in for expensive renovations.
One of the silver linings to the Rams migration to Inglewood, Calif., was that the Edward Jones Dome could be used more for conventions — which can be lucrative for surrounding businesses. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this week that upgrading the convention complex, which includes the Dome, could cost tens of millions of dollars. A separate upgrade of the Scottrade Center, the Post-Dispatch reported, could run up a $100 million price tag.
The paper reported that the St. Louis and the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission met with city and county leaders last week. In an interview on Tuesday, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said the talks are fairly preliminary — adding that no official request have been made just yet.
But Stenger said the county is interested in talking further about the matter.
“My staff met with the mayor’s staff. And they had a basic conversation about whether the county is interested in having discussions about participating in renovations to some of our regional assets,” Stenger said. “My staff indicated my feelings, which are we are interested in having those discussions. There were no particulars that were really discussed. There were no requests made. So the discussions are very preliminary.”
One of the chief reasons St. Louis County didn’t participate in a now-scuttled riverfront stadium proposal was that Stenger insisted on having a referendum to secure county funding. Asked if a countywide vote would be needed for the county to help renovate the Scottrade Center, Stenger replied: “It’s really going to depend upon what the nature of the renovations are.”
“And that’s something that we’re going to have to broach as we go,” he added.
Even though the convention center is situated in the heart of downtown St. Louis, Stenger said the facility supplies tangible benefits to St. Louis County.
“When we have conventions downtown, we certainly have room nights that are generated in St. Louis County,” Stenger said. “We have employees that work in the county that are employed there. So it really is a regional asset. I mean, there are just a number of reasons that the convention center impacts our whole region – in a number of different ways.”
In the meantime, St. Louis and St. Louis County are still on the hook for roughly $6 million a year to pay off and maintain the Edward Jones Dome. Stenger said, “Currently there’s an obligation [to pay] until 2021, and that obligation has to be met.”
“So I don’t think there are any plans to alter that course,” said Stenger, noting that the funds to pay off the Dome debt come from the county’s hotel tax.