Blues Seek Arena Upgrades After Rams Departure
ST. LOUIS —
The St. Louis Blues want local governments to renovate their city-owned downtown arena as part of a project that will also upgrade the city's convention center and former home of its recently departed NFL team.
Blues officials and the regional St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission met with city and St. Louis County leaders last week to discuss a $100 million renovation of the 21-year-old Scottrade Center.
The proposed project also calls for remodeling the America's Center convention complex and the adjacent Edward Jones Dome, which was home to the St. Louis Rams before the NFL approved the team's move back to Los Angeles. Supporters want to package the three projects together to maximize potential public financing, including the city, county and state of Missouri.
"There's been so much noise for the last several years about the football team lease, and the dome, and then the new stadium," said Convention Center President Kitty Ratcliffe. "It would not have been the right time -- any time in the last several years -- to get anybody's attention. We're now getting down to it."
Rams owner and Missouri native Stan Kroenke opted to return the Rams to Los Angeles rather than move to a proposed $1 billion stadium along the Mississippi River north of downtown St. Louis. The stadium plan would have required about $400 million in public money, including a $150 million spending package that St. Louis city aldermen had approved. Though the stadium won't be built, the public is on the hook for $16.2 million in expenses, mostly to pay for a local architecture firm and an assortment of lawyers.
A precise price tag on the Blues' effort isn't yet known, though the convention center upgrades are estimated to exceed $120 million, the newspaper reported. The dome renovations would be geared toward boosting the number of conventions, Ratcliffe said.
Mayor Francis Slay and other city leaders have suggested the city is no longer interested in the NFL after being rebuffed by the Rams.
The America's Center complex expanded in the early 1990s at a cost of about $120 million. In addition to the city's repayment of bonds issued for that project, the city, county and state collectively still owe $100 million for the Edward Jones Dome.
The Scottrade Center, formerly known as the Kiel Center, is owned by the city of St. Louis and leased to the Blues, who operate and manage the facility. The arena also hosts events such as concerts and NCAA basketball tournament games.
Among the upgrades sought by arena officials: installing wireless Internet to improve cellphone reception, replace seating, enhance locker rooms and update the broadcast control room.