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Taxpayers on the hook for storing obsolete NCAA Final Four bleachers

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Obsolete bleachers are costing taxpayers nearly $13,000 a month to keep in storage. And taxpayers have been covering those costs for years.

Officials bought the bleachers to land the NCAA Final Four tournament at the Edward Jones Dome in 2005. Those bleachers, which seated 7,500 fans, cost taxpayers $3.4 million. The St. Louis Regional Sports Authority paid the lion’s share of the cost, with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission picking up the rest of the tab.

James Shrewsbury, head of the St. Louis Regional Sports Authority, said when the Final Four ended, the bleachers were put in storage in the hopes the city would land another Final Four event.

Taxpayers are shelling out $12,996 a month in rent to store the bleachers in a downtown facility, a grand total of $1.7 million in rent over the years.

Local sports officials received a shock last year when they learned the NCAA made a change to effectively render the bleachers obsolete in regard to future Final Four plans. Shrewsbury said the NCAA now wants its own bleachers used for a Final Four.

The CVC sent Fox 2 News a statement saying it just learned of the change last year. However, a spokesman for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship said the NCAA began to examine a change to its bleachers policy in 2007, then implanted the change at regional games in 2008, and started to exercise the new policy at Final Four games in 2009.

No one wanted to buy the bleachers. Officials couldn't find anyone to donate them to, so they’ll have to retain a company to haul the bleachers away for scrap metal.

Officials from the Convention and Visitors Commission said they've used the bleachers six times at various events since they bought them in 2001, and they insist they've been a good deal for taxpayers despite the $1.7 million spent to keep them in storage.