Blues’ $67m arena subsidy hit with lawsuit as city comptroller refuses to issue bonds

Speaking of arena upgrade lawsuits, St. Louis’s plan to provide $67 million in public subsidies toward a redo of the Blues‘ arena, which was passed back in February, is facing a court challenge of its own:

Opponents of the publicly funded $64 million renovation to Scottrade Center filed suit Friday to keep the city from paying for the project, alleging the plan is unconstitutional in Missouri.

And on the same day, a spokesman for St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green said she had no intention of signing the financial agreement that would fund the city’s commitment to the arena.

“The Comptroller has not approved the transaction to issue bonds for the renovation of Scottrade Center, as it would incur debt to the city’s general fund for nonessential services and negatively impact the city’s credit,” Green spokesman Tyson Pruitt said.

The Blues owners insist that Green, who was one of the prime critics of the Rams‘ stadium subsidy plan, doesn’t have the jurisdiction to refuse to issue the bonds, any more than La Liga did to refuse to accept Neymar’s transfer fee from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain. (Note: This is not meant to suggest a legal precedent between FIFA rules and St. Louis city regulations, just an excuse to mention my favorite part of the recent Neymar madness.) As for the suit, filed by currently alderman Cara Spencer, former state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford — who has long been a prominent critic of sports subsidies in St. Louis, dating back to the Cardinals stadium deal —and former city counselor James Wilson, it’s based on a Missouri constitutional provision that public money can’t be granted to for-profit corporations for the purposes of boosting their profits. A bunch of states have these provisions on the books, and pretty much none of them are ever enforced — courts generally rule that the real purpose of the subsidies is “creating public economic benefits” or somesuch. It’ll be interesting to watch, though, not least because the arena renovations have already begun, so if the lawsuit prevails presumably the Blues owners would be on the hook for all the costs themselves; or, you know, would have to find some other public body to try to hit up for money, which is always possible too.


3 comments on “Blues’ $67m arena subsidy hit with lawsuit as city comptroller refuses to issue bonds

  1. Good for them. State and federal law are full of contradictions just like religious texts. It is about time the most responsible and common sense chapter and verse are applied – that public money should not be used for private profits, especially when there are higher priorities. As I recall, the current Missouri governor has similar concerns about using public money for stadiums.

  2. Everybody missed it was illegal in Missouri leading up to the election and in the 7 months after the election? Best of luck of guys but this sounds like pure desperation.

  3. In Indiana the constitution specifically states that it is illegal to be indebted in excess of 2% but yet it happens. Politicians can always find a way.

    ARTICLE 13. Political and Municipal Corporations
    Section 1. Debt limitation
    Section 1. No political or municipal corporation in this State shall ever become indebted, in any manner or for any purpose, to an amount, in the aggregate, exceeding two per centum on the value of the taxable property within such corporation, to be ascertained by the last assessment for State and county taxes, previous to the incurring of such indebtedness; and all bonds or obligations, in excess of such amount, given by such corporations, shall be void: Provided, That in time of war, foreign invasion, or other great public calamity, on petition of a majority of the property owners in number and value, within the limits of such corporation, the public authorities in their discretion, may incur obligation necessary for the public protection and defense to such amount as may be requested in such petition.

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