Kitty Ratcliffe | St. Louis Public Radio

Kitty Ratcliffe

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announces a plan to overhaul the America's Center Convention Complex on Oct. 3, 2018.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The leaders of St. Louis and St. Louis County are backing a plan that would steer millions of dollars to spruce up the America’s Center Convention Complex in downtown St. Louis.

It’s a bid that will be a sign of whether the region’s legislators want to invest more money to attract lucrative conventions and also a test of the political muscle of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

Participants in FIRST Robotics tinker with their machine last week at America's Center. The robotics competition is moving to Detroit next year.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Now that the pomp and circumstance of Inauguration Day is wearing off in St. Louis, elected officials must confront a sizable challenge: upgrading the convention center.

 

The head of St. Louis’ Convention & Visitors Commission recommends roughly $350 million of upgrades for both the convention center and the dome that housed the St. Louis Rams. Already, conventions aren’t looking at St. Louis as a destination, CVC President Kitty Ratcliffe said, and without renovations, the dome may have to close entirely.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

When it comes to marketing downtown St. Louis to visiting conventions, the area has a steep hill to climb. An aging/outdated convention center, losing an NFL team, scarce financial resources, a fear of increased taxes and a perceived safety problem are all roadblocks to bringing visitors into St. Louis for conventions.

Kitty Ratcliffe, the president of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, says that the investment in monetary resources and time it takes to overcome the roadblocks are worth it.

Tim Woodson shows off his pirate ship at the Progressive Insurance St. Louis Boat and Sportshow. The event was held at the Edward Jones Dome, the former home of the St. Louis Rams.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Ever since the St. Louis Rams started packing up for the Los Angeles area, local policymakers have tried to embrace a potential silver lining – more space on the calendar for lucrative events. When the Rams weren’t losing lots and lots of games in the Edward Jones Dome, the facility was used for conventions, trade shows, monster truck rallies and awesome boat shows. The thought was that with the Rams no longer occupying the Dome during the fall, non-football events could fill the void.

The future of the Edward Jones Dome is a big topic of discussion now that the St. Louis Rams are gone -- especially since there's outstanding debt on the facility.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Now that the St. Louis Rams are Los Angeles-bound, fans of the (formerly) Greatest Show on Turf are likely mulling over whether to start rooting for another team – or tune out the NFL entirely.

But policymakers throughout the state have more salient issues to deal with than whether to hop on the Indianapolis Colts' bandwagon -- especially how to pay off the Edward Jones Dome debt. Might the state stop its payments?

Convention and visitor business in the St. Louis region appears to have bounced back following a rough period after last year's violence in Ferguson.

St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is unhappy with the current state of the Edward Jones Dome. When the Rams moved to St. Louis in the 1990s, the contract stipulated that the stadium had to remain in the "top-tier" of other NFL facilities. The Dome is wide
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

The already murky future of professional football in St. Louis got a bit gloomier on Monday. 

Officials confirmed that the St. Louis Rams officially entered into a year-to-year lease with the St. Louis’ Convention and Visitors Commission. And the Los Angeles Times reported an Inglewood stadium plan had garnered 20,000 signatures – twice the amount needed to put the measure on the ballot. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 15, 2008 - Just eight years ago, more than 15.3 million passengers boarded flights at Lambert St. Louis International Airport, nudged by a booming U.S. economy and a pre-terrorist attack enthusiasm for flying that filled gates to near capacity, crowded bars and gift shops and kept everyone from ticket agents to shoeshine men scrambling to keep up with the business.

Today, the falloff has been dramatic and precipitous.