St. Louis Cardinals owners to build more “ballpark village,” demand tax kickbacks to pay for it

The owners of the St. Louis Cardinals announced a second phase to their “Ballpark Village” development across the street from their stadium yesterday, and blah blah, $220 million, 550,000 square feet of new construction, “mixed-use neighborhood where people live, work and play,” okay, here we go:

St. Louis Alderman Jack Cotar will introduce legislation to amend an existing development agreement that enabled the first phase of Ballpark Village on Tuesday…

According to the announcement, the “development team is proposing to use a portion of the new tax revenue generated solely within the Ballpark Village project area, including an additional self-imposed 1 percent TDD sales tax, to underwrite the bonds issued to support project infrastructure costs. Only taxes generated by the Ballpark Village project itself, as well as private equity and debt investments by the development team, will be used to finance Ballpark Village.”

This should come as no surprise, as the first phase of the Ballpark Village — a bizarro grandstand-slice-themed shopping mall with an equally bizarro racially coded dress code — got $116 million in subsidies back in 2006, mostly from tax-increment funding: i.e., kicking back property and sales taxes to the developers, who can then use them to pay off their own construction costs. It’s unclear exactly how much Cotar’s bill will propose handing over to the Cardinals owners — that “TDD” is a sales tax surcharge in the ballpark area, which if it’s narrowly drawn could just come out of the team’s pockets, but property taxes or existing sales taxes would just be a straight kickback. The original Cardinals stadium deal wasn’t too bad for the public as these things go — about two-thirds of the cost was shouldered by the team owners — but they’re making up for lost subsidy time with all the additional development across the street. Excellent job on the bait-and-switch, Bill DeWitt and friends!

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8 comments on “St. Louis Cardinals owners to build more “ballpark village,” demand tax kickbacks to pay for it

  1. I had such a better time drinking & eating in the Soulard neighborhood last year instead of listening to my buddy and going to the what-looked-to-be-lame ballpark village. Experiencing part of a city that actually feels like the city instead of a cookie-cut ballpark village ftw.


    While in dispute, there are some arguments to be made that Ballpark Village (BV) has taken away customers from other downtown restaurants, ie instead of pregaming and eating at other restaurants customers go to BV.

  3. I think pretty much anyone who builds big developments in a mid-sizes city gets some sort of tax increment financing whether its sports related or not. I’ve only been to St Louis once but ballpark village was the highlight of my trip and it seems to be a huge draw for people who don’t live in the city.

  4. “I think pretty much anyone who builds big developments in a mid-sizes city gets some sort of tax increment financing whether its sports related or not.”

    That is untrue in the extreme. TIFs are a fairly recent development, and still uncommon and controversial in many cities. (And common and controversial in others, such as Chicago, where they were memorably cited for reducing the city’s property tax base to “Swiss cheese.”)

    1. I don’t consider Chicago a midsize city. Other cities though either have to give out incentives or developers won’t build in their city. I saw it all the time when I lived in Cleveland. The city is getting a lot of positive press for its downtown development, but if you look at the major projects they all had either TIFs or “historical tax credits” which is a bigger scam.

      1. Straight property tax breaks are far more common than TIFs. Even then, though, there’s a lot of evidence that they don’t do much to prompt development — it’s more often a way for developers to demand subsidies for projects that they would have done anyway.

  5. I imagine most St. Louisans would be completely in favor of this…if there was a clause that required a certain amount of “success” on the baseball field before any TIF money was diverted back to the team. Yes, they’ve been successful the past several years, but missing the playoffs two years in a row with the Cubs rolling will not be tolerated.

    The team is starting to get the perception, right or wrong, that they are not interested in spending enough for payroll to field a consistently competitive team.

    If this perception is accurate it’s going to become more noticeable quite soon with much of the remaining core from the beginning of this decade aging out.

  6. “Build us a stadium and it will be a catalyst for economic development.”

    Nominal to no economic development happens.

    “Hey build us a giant bar-like shopping mall of a sports-entertainment theme park type thingy and we’ll have the promised economic development at the expense of people who actually tried to run a business based of 81 home games a year.”

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