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County OKs issuance of bonds for new St. Louis Cardinals ballpark

The St. Louis County Council recently voted unanimously to approve the issuance of $45.669 million in bonds to help finance the St. Louis Cardinals ballpark project.

Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, was absent from the Dec. 2 meeting, but had voiced his support of the legislation when it was introduced Nov. 17.

Using county funds to support a private project is justified because the construction of a new ballpark will provide many jobs for county residents, while also promoting tourism in the area, according to the legislation.

Despite the council's support of the regional initiative, members of the Coalition Against Public Funding currently are circulating a petition to place the ballpark proposal on the November 2004 ballot to let voters decide if the county should use public funds for the project.

Spokesmen for the coalition, including Fred Lindecke and Tom Sullivan, have voiced their opposition during every public reading of the ballpark proposal claiming that a new ballpark is an unwise investment for county taxpayers and the county should not invest public funds in a private endeavor.

"Given the unanswered questions about the stadium bill and the exhibits attached to it,'' Sullivan told councilmen Dec. 2, noting he questions the integrity of the financial documents supporting the agreement. "I would suggest that it might be best to postpone a final vote for one more week."

The vote was not postponed and Councilman Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury, the ballpark legislation's main proponent, told fellow councilmen he was proud that the county was playing a role in such an important regional project, despite the opposition from the Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums.

"When I hear about the different petitions and polls that are taken, I never hear the words that this is a $45 million loan, an interest-bearing loan, monies that are going to be repaid with all the protections that we really have put into this bill for the county taxpayers," Odenwald said.

"I rarely hear that this money is coming out of hotel/motel tax funds, which were approved by the voters back in late 1989, and in which can only be used for tourism purposes. They can't be used for police or roads or for general revenue,'' he added.

The new ballpark will not completely revitalize downtown, but he said he is confident it will serve as an important component in downtown's overall revitalization.

Construction for the stadium is scheduled to begin by the end of December with plans for the $400 million stadium to open for the 2006 baseball season.

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