Seeking funding for North County St. Louis Recreation Center, Days wanted $80 million | Politics


CLAYTON — How much would it cost to build a recreation center in northern St. Louis County, and where would the funding come from?

Council President Rita Heard Days, in whose district the recreation center is likely to be located, has yet to come up with answers. A proposal she made would see the county restructure a special $105 million bond issue to expand America’s Center in downtown St. Louis to add debt to pay for the new facility.

Days told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday that she was speaking to county budget officials about the idea, but declined to provide an estimate of the dollar amount she was seeking, which would come from the county’s tourism and recreation fund. .

“We’re in conversation now,” Days said. “We’re trying to figure out how we can pull together various resources to make this happen, because now it looks like it’s going to be in St. Louis County only.”

But according to an email provided to the Post-Dispatch on Friday, Days demanded $80 million in special bonds despite having no plan, design or location – other than a suggestion that the recreation center could be an indoor track facility.

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This suggestion was a recommendation from a study funded by the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission to determine the best use of a facility that would attract people to the area. The study did not estimate the total cost of the project, but pointed to similar facilities elsewhere in the country, ranging from the $2.5 million JDL Fast Track in North Carolina to a $68 million athletic center. in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Budget director Paul Kreidler, in an email to Days dated Tuesday, said an $80 million bond issue was unlikely to succeed unless it met a strict set assumptions, including no change in interest rate levels in the tax-exempt bond market, an extension of the bond duration from 23 to 35 years, and no additional new projects to be paid out of the fund until at least 2030.

Even then, the bond restructuring would add $40 million in debt service costs for the convention center expansion over the life of the bonds, he said.

And the county could “face the risk of another economic shock” affecting hotel and motel tax revenues, similar to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. That would require the county to use general revenue to pay the debt service deficit, Kreidler said.

The county should expect to spend the bond proceeds within three years, Kreidler said. The recreation center is unlikely to be built by then, “given the current state of this concept”, he said.

Overall, Kreidler said it was difficult for him to answer conclusively because there were no detailed plans for the project.

“It is difficult for me to draw conclusions about the affordability of an $80 million project without additional information, including a project concept/design, a plan to staff/operate the facility (and how pay it) and a plan to fund the ongoing maintenance and repair of the facility.

In the email to Days, Kreidler said that county executive Sam Page’s administration suggested Days use about $193 million in American Rescue Plan Act federal funds. to pay for a study to “develop a concept, design and financing plan for the type of facility you are considering.

“It would be an important first step before approaching the bond market on this project,” Kreidler said.

The days-long effort to identify and secure funding for the recreation center caused the county council to delay a vote on issuing bonds for several months to pay for the county’s share of the convention center project. The city of St. Louis has already issued bonds to pay for its half of the $210 million project, which is underway. Days insisted the region’s tourism agency, the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, reneged on a 2019 deal to build a recreation center in North County.

Under the agreement reached with Days’ predecessor on the council, the late Hazel Erby, the money for the new leisure center is supposed to come from a percentage of excess or uncommitted hotel taxes.

CVC President Kitty Ratcliffe said CVC’s deal was only to help fund the facility, not design and build it. The agency went above and beyond the deal by funding the study recommending an indoor track facility, she said.

But Kreidler warned the county council in October that there would be no excess hotel tax revenue for at least three years due to the pandemic, which has reduced hotel revenue and tax revenue from 2020.

Afterwards, Days called on the county to support the project with some of its proceeds from a recent lawsuit settlement with the National Football League and the Los Angeles Rams. The county, the city of St. Louis and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority are still negotiating how to split the roughly $500 million.

Asked for comment on Friday, Days declined a phone call and said she was in a meeting. In a text, Days said she received Kreidler’s email and was “considering his suggestion.”

“As I mentioned earlier, other options may arise. I have no other answer at the moment. When I have more information I will be happy to share.

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