Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nicklaus: St. Louis Faces Big Bill for Convention Center Shortcomings

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nicklaus: St. Louis Faces Big Bill for Convention Center Shortcomings

Article excerpt

Twenty-two years after the Rams moved here and one year after they left, St. Louis is still tallying the cost of football.

The stadium construction cost of $280 million is well- documented, as is the $16 million that was spent in a fruitless attempt to build a new sports palace on the riverfront. Less obvious are the compromises made on other public investments while we were pursuing NFL glory.

One big compromise was the design of America's Center. Its southern expansion, which opened in 1993, was supposed to be built east of the original 1977 building, but our town's leaders identified the eastern site, extending to Broadway, as a great location for football.

The southern site was smaller, and the expansion was built around a privately owned parking garage, so planners skimped on things such as ballroom space and loading docks. They also had to put the second- floor ballroom, where many conventions serve meals, on the opposite end of the building from the basement kitchen, creating a long, circuitous route from oven to table.

The Dome, which opened in 1996, was sold to voters as a combination sports and convention facility, but was designed mostly for the former. Narrow connections to the rest of America's Center make it difficult to move people in and out.

"One thing led to another, and we ended up with a facility that's not purposefully designed," says Kitty Ratcliffe, president of the Convention and Visitors Commission. "Any 40-year-old building would need enhancements from a technology perspective, but what we have is hamstrung by the decisions that were made."

The CVC will be asking for money soon to solve the complex's many problems. Ratcliffe estimates that refinancing and extending the Dome's bonds could raise $350 million, so the price tag will probably be in that vicinity.

Failing to address the shortcomings "will have grave consequences," C. …

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