Blues hockey ownership takes St. Louis comptroller to court over … –

The owners of the Blues professional hockey team are asking a judge to order the St. Louis comptroller to sign off on a $64 million financing agreement for Scottrade Center renovations.

The deal was approved by the Board of Aldermen in a 15-12 vote in February, but St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green has refused to sign the agreement, saying it would hurt the city’s credit rating. Green’s signature is needed for the city to sell bonds to fund the project.

A statement attributed to the ownership group, Kiel Center Partners, issued Tuesday said “the Office of the Comptroller simply does not have the authority to veto bills passed into law by the Board of Aldermen and the Mayor.”

The Blues are seeking what’s called a writ of mandamus, a court order directing a government official to fulfill his or her duties. Green’s stance suggests the law gives her discretion not to sign.

Green’s spokesman said she is waiting to see a copy of the legal filing before commenting on it. Tuesday’s filing comes four days after opponents of the Scottrade Center renovations filed suit Friday to have the public financing ordinance deemed unenforceable.


Darlene Green.jpg

Darlene Green, comptroller of the city of St. Louis.

Blues owners say they have met with Green and her staff multiple times over the last six months to attempt to get her signature on the agreement. They say Green instead tried to negotiate a different financing plan.

Kiel Center Partners has taken on additional loans to complete the first phase of renovations while the dispute with the comptroller remains to be settled. Under the agreement approved in February, the city-funded renovations were to take place in annual phases over three years.

“This is an essential project for St. Louis,” the Blues ownership statement read. “However, without the promised financing, the completion of this work and our ability to keep and pursue major events that are critical to jobs and our economy is severely at risk.”

Combined with interest, the cost to the city for the renovations over 30 years is estimated at $105 million. The plan includes $50 million from a Community Improvement District tax on sales at Scottrade Center over the next 30 years.

To help pay off the debt, $55 million from a 5 percent tax on ticket sales would be used. With debt payments on Kiel Opera House renovations ending in 2021, the $800,000 dedicated annually to that project would shift to Scottrade Center payments thru 2048, totaling about $21 million.

Part of the debt payment still will come from general revenue.

The Blues are also seeking state financing for future Scottrade Center renovations, an effort that could be complicated politically by the standoff with Green and the lawsuit to stop the ordinance from being enforced.

The Blues registered 14 lobbyists with the Missouri Ethics Commission during the 2017 legislative session, a comparatively high number among professional sports teams in Missouri.

The city’s contributions would fund new seating throughout the stadium, a new scoreboard hung in the center of the stadium, sound system and lighting upgrades, renovated locker rooms, renovated concession stands and new administrative offices. Various entryways and facades would also get makeovers.

Kiel Center Partners holds the lease to Scottrade Center through 2042, but the facility is owned by the city. Blues owners intend to contribute $50 million out of pocket over the next 20 to 30 years for additional improvements beyond the other renovations, Blues Chief Executive Chris Zimmerman said in January.

Also Tuesday, the Blues filed a motion seeking a different judge in the lawsuit brought last week. The case was originally assigned to Judge Robert Dierker Jr.

The city of St. Louis, the Blues and Kiel Center Partners are among the defendants named in the lawsuit filed Friday. It was filed on behalf of Alderman Cara Spencer, former state Rep. Jeanette Oxford and former city counselor James Wilson.

Blues hockey ownership takes St. Louis comptroller to court over … –

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