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Thread: Burwell: Even Sportswriters Can Figure Out Dome Issues

  1. #1
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    Burwell: Even Sportswriters Can Figure Out Dome Issues

    Burwell: Even sportswriters can figure out Dome issue

    BY BRYAN BURWELL, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Nothing amuses me more than when a public servant tells me that I ought to mind my own business and stay out of his. The tricky thing about being a public servant with strong emphasis on that word public is that your business is my business.

    So imagine what a chuckle I got Tuesday when I found out that Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, went on local sports talk radio suggesting that all this public (oops, there goes that word again) haggling over the Edward Jones Dome renovation business was just too darned complicated for a sports columnist to understand.

    "I respect Bryan as a sports writer," Rainford told host Frank Cusumano on KFNS (590 AM), "(but) probably he'd be best served sticking to sports. I don't think he understands the convention business, what it takes in the convention business and what it takes to get ahead in the business."

    Rainford went on to lecture about how anyone who knows anything about this complicated business and I am assuming he means the folks his boss appointed to the Convention and Visitors Commission who are handling the delicate negotiations with the Rams would understand that the only reason the city is struggling to attract major events to the Dome has nothing to do with the fact that the facility is woefully outdated.

    "We have adequate facilities to be competitive," Rainford explained, "but we don't have ... in essence, what's happening in both amateur sports and in conventions is an arms race. What's really happening is not just facilities are better. ... What's happening is in other places they're in essence giving it away. So if you want to hold a Final Four, you almost have to give the facility away. If you want to hold a lucrative, citywide convention, you almost have to give the facility away, and the CVC doesn't have the operating budget to do it. If you really want to make St. Louis better for amateur sports, we need to pass the legislation that the St. Louis Sports Commission is pushing in Jefferson City in which about $5 on every ticket would be set aside for just that purpose."

    The legislation Rainford is talking about is a proposed law that Ohio and Texas have already passed that provides tax rebates to cities that are seeking to lure amateur sports events to their local facilities. The NCAA championships like the men's Final Four are now going to cities like Houston and Dallas because they can afford to bring the basketball championships in without charging the NCAA rent. It's the same sort of legislation I have been championing as a way to spur the development of downtown and the entire region through amateur and pro sports. It's also the same legislation that a representative of the CVC failed to support during a hearing in Jefferson City in 2010, but now the CVC belatedly advocates.

    So just to be clear, is that the legislation you're talking about, Jeff?

    Oh, yes, it's just so darned complicated.

    Well, no it isn't. The only thing that's complicated about this is making people understand why it's so essential to get it done. Taxpayers who are staunch detractors of publicly funded stadium initiatives can grind on about their opposition ad nauseam. Politicians can shamelessly pander to those same voices, playing the tough guy in the public negotiations, even if behind the scenes they know they will ultimately cave in when the time is strategically right.

    But since the last time I checked, I was a taxpayer, too, I guess I can keep on advocating for the pro-sports crowd, which is not to be confused with "carrying Stan Kroenke's water," as the anti-stadium crowd likes to characterize anyone who is in favor of this stadium project. As this process plays out, we'll also find out that $700 million figure is rather arbitrary. After arbitration, the costs could end up in the $500 million to $600 million range, and then we'll also discover after some healthy haggling that the bill could be split in half and some creative methods can reduce the burden on taxpayers (see: Minnesota's stadium financing plan).

    The only water I'm carrying is the bucket for people with a vision who understand what the completion of this project will mean. It will mean St. Louis could become a regular host of NCAA tournaments, SEC football and basketball championships, Super Bowls and college bowl games. The value of those events for the region could cut a big chunk off the bill, too.

    But since this is so complicated and way above my head, I decided that someone who is quite familiar with this sort of business former NCAA senior vice president Greg Shaheen might be able to coach me up on this dizzying stuff.

    "It takes a village to get this done," said Shaheen, who for the past 12 years oversaw the men's basketball championships and bidding processes for the Final Four. "It takes a community being able to get together to form a common strategy."

    One of the cities that seems to have formed one of the better strategies and one I have urged St. Louis to observe is Indianapolis.

    "I think what you can glean from Indianapolis is that 35 years ago or more (it) decided to go for a long ball with amateur sports," said Shaheen. "That was to invest extraordinary amount of resources in people, money, land, facilities towards a downtown that could stage large events and attracting major events. It was a comprehensive strategy. Communities that tend to excel are ones that understand that it takes resources to make resources. What happened (in Indianapolis) was (the creation of) jobs and hotels being built. Then the big events came to town and it led to corporate executives who are quite possibly going to never get another look otherwise at your community spending the week in your town (as spectators). These events are the ultimate showcase for cities."

    Hmmmm, this is something even a sportswriter can understand. Build it and they will come. "It was that higher vision," said Shaheen of Indianapolis' ambition and transformation. "It was thinking of that short-, medium- and long-term return that drives these things. And it requires some broad vision to make it so."

    Wow, that doesn't sound so complicated, now does it?


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    Re: Burwell: Even Sportswriters Can Figure Out Dome Issues

    This was basically the exact argument I made to my wife's cousin, who is a bartender in St. Louis, just south of downtown. If the city stays hardfast against working out a deal with the Rams to actually fulfill their side of the contract, then the Rams will move. Simple as that. They don't need to be in St. Louis. They can move to OKC, to Las Vegas, to LA, to anywhere. My vote? Kentucky.

    So, if after negotiations, it takes $400 million of the city, county and state's money to get this done. Yes, it's a lot of money in this economy, but by doing so, you will be gaining a convention and sports center that can bring in so much more than that.

    There's the obvious, Super Bowl, Final Four, Bowl games. But maybe you can get a DNC or a RNC presidential convention. How about getting an Arena team that can play in the spring? Concerts? Heavyweight boxing? MMA? If there's a place that people want to go see, and a downtown that accomodates them(Arch, Brewery, Cardnals, Blues, Laclede's Landing, the casinos), people will come and spend money.

    But people consider the now and not the future. Go with Burwell's line from Field of Dreams. Build it, and they will come. If you don't, then the money that the Rams themselves pay will be gone, and the tourism money spawned by them will be gone. So, spend some to make some, or spend none and get none. It's your choice.
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    Re: Burwell: Even Sportswriters Can Figure Out Dome Issues

    I can understand both sides of the argument, but I cannot personally agree with hundreds of millions in corporate welfare. The purported benefits derived from spending public money on stadiums and such never materialize in the City of Saint Louis. The central business district many be nicer, but the serious political and social problems that plague the rest of the city never change. There are many reasons for that, but a new stadium most certainly is not the answer.

    I cannot agree to spending such a vast sum of public money on a staduim when the schools are in such horrible shape. The schools are a freaking tragedy. I think spending public money like that on a stadium just spits in those poor kid's faces. We can just tell the kids: "Your school is falling down around you, but at least the white people who live in the county have a new stadium to go to."

    Im not against all compromise, but 700M is an insult to the poor people who actually live in the city. If Stan only cares about money, they are as good as gone. I love the Rams, but I will not support building a new stadium to the tune of hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars, not when the rest of the problems of the city are swept under the rug just one more time.

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    Re: Burwell: Even Sportswriters Can Figure Out Dome Issues

    I think this is a very important issue to the city, so let me expand on my point a little more. I do love having the Rams here, but football is not my only concern in the wider narrative of living in Saint Louis. Let qoute a couple of paragraphs from Colin Gordon's book, Mapping Decline. Its a great book for those interested in why the city is in such horrible shape.

    "A half-century of urban renewal and redevelopment programs, as I traced in the last chapter, not only failed to stem the decline of central St. Louis but pointedly avoided the very neighborhoods in which decline was most palpable. This was a complex failure- a tangle of good intentions and bad policy, steep challenges and shallow resources. The original postwar concern for substandard living conditions was increasingly distracted by redevelopment schemes that put economic development ahead of residential renewal and the central business district ahead of troubled neighborhoods. In turn, commercial and residential projects alike falied to spur the new private investment or new private employment that might have real benefits beyond the project boundaries.

    In an era in which a few cities (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Minneapolis) managed to reinvent themselves, St. Louis (and many others) could lay claim to little more than disconnected and halfhearted pockets of urban tourism. Most American cities emerged from the heyday of urban renewal in similiar shape- central city decay punctuated by the occasional stadium or convention center; urban problems (segregation, poverty, unemployment, fiscal crisis) spilling into the inner suburbs; employment and the tax base continuing to sprawl into the outer suburbs"
    Last edited by swatter555; -05-21-2012 at 02:14 AM.

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    Re: Burwell: Even Sportswriters Can Figure Out Dome Issues

    Are any of your concerns going to be addressed by an ever-obsolescing stadium and the loss of the Rams?
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    Re: Burwell: Even Sportswriters Can Figure Out Dome Issues

    Quote Originally Posted by swatter555 View Post
    I think this is a very important issue to the city, so let me expand on my point a little more. I do love having the Rams here, but football is not my only concern in the wider narrative of living in Saint Louis. Let qoute a couple of paragraphs from Colin Gordon's book, Mapping Decline. Its a great book for those interested in why the city is in such horrible shape.

    "A half-century of urban renewal and redevelopment programs, as I traced in the last chapter, not only failed to stem the decline of central St. Louis but pointedly avoided the very neighborhoods in which decline was most palpable. This was a complex failure- a tangle of good intentions and bad policy, steep challenges and shallow resources. The original postwar concern for substandard living conditions was increasingly distracted by redevelopment schemes that put economic development ahead of residential renewal and the central business district ahead of troubled neighborhoods. In turn, commercial and residential projects alike falied to spur the new private investment or new private employment that might have real benefits beyond the project boundaries.

    In an era in which a few cities (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Minneapolis) managed to reinvent themselves, St. Louis (and many others) could lay claim to little more than disconnected and halfhearted pockets of urban tourism. Most American cities emerged from the heyday of urban renewal in similiar shape- central city decay punctuated by the occasional stadium or convention center; urban problems (segregation, poverty, unemployment, fiscal crisis) spilling into the inner suburbs; employment and the tax base continuing to sprawl into the outer suburbs"
    Sounds like a guy trying to making a impression by using a thesaurus. Just because you use it every other word doesn't mean doodely. This isn't rocket science spend some to make some, spend none to get none. It's a principal in money. If this is the prevelant thinking in STL I'd love to see the Rams move. Sounds like there are a collection of tards running things in the Lou for a while now.

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