Commentary by St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green
Missouri Statewide Sports Authority Is Needed
It is Time for Major-League Thinking
A large part of the problem with funding public-private partnerships for sports facilities in Missouri is the lack of a unified approach. We talk about the need for regional unity all the time, but when it comes to doing the heavy lifting, like working to keep the Rams here, suddenly the region wants the city of St. Louis to shoulder most of the added burden. We could all learn a lesson from the state of Arizona and others that formed statewide sports authorities years ago.
The St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Facility Authority was created under state law in 2007. It is comprised of representatives from both St. Louis City and County and appointees by the governor. But going forward how can it continue to be a regional authority when St. Louis County, with three times the population, is given a pass on putting any more money into the pot to keep our NFL franchise?
Back in 1999 the state of Arizona was faced with the potential loss of its NFL franchise. They put in place a statewide effort, and in 2000 managed to get voter approval for a sports authority. One of the key concerns for me has been adding to the city's indebtedness and the negative impact that could have on our bond rating. A statewide authority with the power to issue those bonds makes the most sense.
One of the additional sources of revenue Arizona brought to the table in 2000 was a 3.25% surcharge on car rentals. They raised millions to help pay off their stadium projects without having to put more burden on the average taxpayer. Just like the tax we place on hotels, a rental car tax would be borne primarily by visitors.
Between the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, the Blues, St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and collegiate teams, there is far more synergy for a statewide sports authority in Missouri than in many states that already have them in place. This is also the opportunity to leverage what sports franchises and teams bring in terms of tourism, imagery and visitor dollars to our state as a whole. We can bring visitors to fill our hotels, eat in our restaurants, and visit our attractions because of the draw and power of professional sports. Missouri is bounded by eight other states, the most of any state in the nation. It is time for major-league thinking. What continues to stand in the way is thinking small.
The timing couldn’t be better for making the case for a state-sponsored sports authority. Local dollars can then be directed where they are most needed for infrastructure, police and fire and community-building. Our statewide sports venues will have their own dedicated source of revenue generated by tourism and sports enthusiasts. Let’s do it!
The Comptroller of the city of St. Louis is charged with protecting the credit of the city and being a watchdog over taxpayer dollars.
Office of the Comptroller
Sports and Recreation
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