Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ballpark Village Fiasco

The recent collapse of Centene deciding to opt out of building its HQ in St. Louis Downtown ballpark village, a.k.a. the downtown quarry, has been the most recent and largest setback for the building of ANYTHING in Ballpark village. And is a major setback for the City of St. Louis. The Centene HQ was going to bring 1200 jobs into the city and probably kickstart the whole deal. So lets analyze the situation and start pointing fingers, because quite frankly it is time for people to start getting pissed.

Two years and two baseball seasons have gone by one bringing a world championship home and the Cardinals cannot finish the job here in St. Louis. It is my understanding that the Cardinals own the land and have contracted with a Baltimore based Cordish Company to develop the property. So what is the deal? Everyone in town knows that this is possibly the best real estate in the entire state of Missouri. Not only that, the City of St. Louis and the State of Missouri have secured tax credits/funding of $100 million dollars, and Centene was set to receive an additional $70 million dollars for the construction of their building alone. I know that the market for real estate, lending and development is tanking, but $170 million is a lot of money. If you gave me $170 million and said build something, I am betting I could put up a fairly good set of buildings. Heck they could fill out the site in phases, build one or two buildings rent them out. They will be rented out, this is the best baseball town in America. St. Louisans will definitely rent offices, buy lofts and patronize retail and commercial space ACROSS THE STREET FROM BUSCH STADIUM no matter what the economy is doing.

Ok, now for the fun part, lets start pointing fingers:
The players-- Cardinals, Cordish, Centene, City of St. Louis, State of Missouri

Let's start with the biggest loser in this situation, the City of St. Louis and the State of Missouri. The City and State was on a tax dollar giveaway for this thing. Bigtime. They already helped finance the Stadium, taking political heat from around the State to get something done with out even mucking up the process with really any kinds of rules or restrictions. I give them a pass, they bucked up (our money) quite liberally without much of a guarentee in return, save perhaps that the Cardinals would have to build something nice. I don't think that is really too much to ask for, given that we have already helped pay for the new stadium, which was also unnecessary (the Old Busch could have had quite a few more years in her).

So that leaves us the St. Louis Cardinals, Cordish and Centene.

Centene I also give a pass too. They as far as I could tell wanted to build a HQ bringing 1200 jobs to St. Louis to Ballpark Village.

This leaves us with the real culprits: the St. Louis Cardinals and Cordish Co.
From what I hear from people working around this deal is that Cordish is the big hold up in this whole process. I don't really know any details why, and I know the economy is bad right now, but $170 million in public financing should be enough to secure some kind of loans. There has to be some bank out there that is willing to say "hmmm, $170 million that is one heck of a down payment, here's some money! now start building." I know the financing for a project like this is actually ridiculously more complicated, but we are not reinventing the wheel here people. Deals like this have been done in the past. So what is the hold up (not like we will ever find out from the Post-Dispatch press release aggregator/newspaper)?

Now for the beloved St. Louis Cardinals. They have to shoulder the blame also. Our out of town owners have asked for us all to chip in so that we can enjoy our baseball in a brand new facility and consequently, increase the value of the team by hundreds of millions of dollars. So when they sell the team they can pocket that money and we get to pay higher ticket prices. Does that sound like a fair deal to you? I bet this would be a lot more fair if, perhaps, they had to actually spend some money building a thing called Ballpark Village in the mud hole that is currently next to the stadium. But if that part of the deal falls through, (where would they get that idea....Kiel/Savis/Scottrade and the infamous we'll renovate Kiel Auditorium deal...still worthless) they would be off scot-free to make a ton of money selling the team.

So let's sum up the situation, the Cardinals don't want this on their hands anymore, it is too hard for Cordish Co., Centene needs an HQ and can't wait around, and us the citizens bucking up a lot of lucre for this want our god-damned ball park village. I wonder who isn't going to get what they want?

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