Chesterfield spikes $55 million youth sports complex agreement; developer says he’ll go elsewhere
A proposed $55 million indoor-outdoor sports complex in the Chesterfield Valley, billed as the largest in North America, won’t move forward because the developer failed to meet a June 1 deadline to secure funds from St. Louis County for water and sewer lines.
St. Louis Public Radio reported last week that the deal for the POWERplex was in jeopardy because Big Sports Properties LLC, run by Dan Buck, had not provided given Chesterfield officials the required documents. Rather than negotiate a new deal, Buck said Monday night that he’ll take the project — and its estimated $6 million in tax money a year — elsewhere.
“We’re fully funded. We’re ready to break ground,” a visibly frustrated Buck said during a break in the Chesterfield City Council meeting. “We’ve been dancing around this for a long time. Unfortunately, there's members of this council who just don't want to see it happen. They want to try and get this thing thwarted, and they're going to be successful. It will move to another community, unfortunately."
Buck said “many communities” had contacted Big Sports about the POWERplex since he announced the project, which has the backing of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, in early April.
“That is not a threat. It’s just a business reality that there’s a lot of hungry communities out there seeking ways to drive business to their retailers they know are struggling,” he said.
The proposed complex included two domed structures for baseball, softball, volleyball and basketball, plus six outdoor fields for baseball and softball. The plan also included an “education and health literacy center” for the BASE Foundation, whose website says it provides a “five-course curriculum” and is “committed to bringing character and sportsmanship.”
There also would have been a hotel, an office complex and shopping and dining options. Buck had secured a $6 million contribution from billionaire Rex Sinquefield and his wife Jeanne, who would have their names on the education center, as well as money from the Cardinals Care charity and Major League Baseball.
The language of the development deal that Buck and the city of Chesterfield signed in March was clear: Buck’s company had to show that it had to produce four “deliverables” by June 1. That included written confirmation that St. Louis County had agreed to provide financial support.
The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership was willing to issue $16 million in tax-exempt bonds, but needed approval of its board. CEO Sheila Sweeney had asked for an extension; the board is to meet June 13.
Mark Harder, the Republican who represents Chesterfield on the St. Louis County Council, also asked for more time to get the county’s portion of the deal wrapped up.
On Monday, Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation, an ardent supporter of the POWERplex project, conceded Buck had missed the deadline, adding: “I see little downside to allowing a little more time for the county to get the approvals and the support that are needed to make this project a reality.”
But the appetite for the project simply did not exist on the council, whose makeup has changed since the development deal, which included a 50-year lease on city land for the POWERplex, was signed in January.
“This has never been about the product,” said council member Tom DeCampi, who represents the ward where the complex would have been located. “The deal’s been flawed from the start. It was negotiated without the council. The presentations lacked transparency. The return on our assets is anemic.”
DeCampi was one of three council members who opposed the deal in January. Barb McGuinness was another; she objected to the fact that Buck wanted to lease a portion of the land he needed from Chesterfield.
“I think we could all support this is they would actually buy the land outright,” she said.
Buck didn’t specify which communities had reached out to him, or whether they’re in Missouri or St. Clair or Madison counties in Illinois. Wildwood, Missouri, City Administrator Ryan Thomas said in an email that the community had not been in contact "with anyone from the development group."
And St. Charles County communications director Mary Enger said in an email Tuesday that Buck hadn’t contacted any of the county’s officials, but that they “would listen to a proposal if contacted.”
Jason Rosenbaum contributed to this report.
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