St. Louis regional economy threatened by politics of stalled convention project

Missouri

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The regional economy could face a loss of more than $100 million if a stalled expansion project at the America’s Center doesn’t move forward, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The warning about the major economic loss is coming from the head of the tourism office in charge of the $210 million project. It appears there could be some politics at play.

An email from Kitty Ratcliffe, the President of The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the economic losses would reach more than $100 million in six months. The email says that the numbers represent the bare minimum and certain loss to the businesses in the region, the workforce of those businesses, and the overall health of the economy of the region and the state.

Ratcliffe’s email also warns that the city will lose major conventions if the expansion isn’t approved quickly. She listed in general terms 11 conventions that could be in jeopardy. But she did not name any specifically.

The expansion at the America’s Center was first pitched in 2018. The Post-Dispatch reports that the plans call for a new ballroom, pavilion, and 92,000 square feet of new exhibit space. It’s supposed to be done in 2023 but political infighting and the COVID pandemic have caused delays.

A spokesperson for St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones says the city has closed on its bonds for the project and now it’s up to St. Louis County to approve its part of the funding. The head of the county council Rita Heard Days is accusing Ratcliffe of reneging on a deal to build a north county recreation center in exchange for the county’s support of the convention center expansion.

Days says the county won’t be persuaded by bad press and that county is committed to getting the biggest bang for its buck. We will see what happens in this apparent political stalemate.

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