Fitzpatrick wants another meeting with Regional Sports Authority

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

State Rep. feels money wasted on new stadium proposal

State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, met with the leaders of the Regional Sports Authority of St. Louis last week, and if he gets his way, they will be coming back in another week or two.

The hearing at the capitol was in regards to the $16.5 million the organization spent pitching the NFL a new stadium in St. Louis, money Fitzpatrick said was overboard and now wasted since the Rams have been moved to Los Angeles.

"The hearing went OK, but we didn't have a lot of time to ask them questions," Fitzpatrick said. "They said they got the money from refinancing bonds, and the Regional Sport Authority financed it, so there was no debt held by the state."

Fitzpatrick said each year, the Regional Sports Authority gets $12 million from the state, and $6 million each from the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County. He said $10 million of that state money is for debt service, and $5 million each from the city and county go to debt service.

"One thing brought up is that they don't have stockholders," Fitzpatrick said. "And they're not run by any elected officers, so it seems like they are no accountable to anyone. They also don't seem to be doing a competitive bid process.

"They had all kinds of invoices for about $75,000 in services rendered, and they had four law firms working on the proposal."

Fitzpatrick said possibly the biggest glare was money spent on architects.

"They spent $11 million on architects for a stadium that didn't even get built," he said. "We ran out of time [at the hearing], but I think we shed some light on the fact they wasted a lot of money."

The hearing lasted an hour-and-a-half, then legislators had to return to session and the St. Louis folks had to leave.

Fitzpatrick said he hopes to have the Regional Sports Authority back soon, as he aims to make sure state money is not overspend pursuing a Major League Soccer team in St. Louis.

"I just want to make sure they don't go through this whole process again to get a soccer team there, like issuing bonds without the approval of the state," he said. "St. Louis County has already said they will not issue any more bonds. We'll also try to decide whether it's appropriate to continue giving money to the Regional Sports Authority."

The state is in a financial agreement with the organization running through 2021, and he said the Regional Sports Authority may try to extend some bonds 30 more years, to which the legislature could deny holding the debt service.

"The legislature will say if they go borrow more money without a vote of the legislature, the state will not pay the debt," Fitzpatrick said.

As far as holding another hearing, Fitzpatrick said a couple things would have to fall into place.

"It's up to the chairman if we have them back or not," he said. "If we do, I hope it will be in the next couple weeks."

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