Ashcroft signs stadium bill


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. John Ashcroft on Friday signed one of the most controversial bills passed this year by the Missouri General Assembly, a bill that will require the state to help finance professional sports stadiums in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Ashcroft, who earlier said repeatedly he disliked some provisions of the bill, was pressured heavily by prominent business representatives and public officials in St. Louis and Kansas City to sign the legislation. Many of those pressuring the governor had made financial contributions to his campaigns for public office.


He denied that politics had been involved in his approval of the measure.

'This bill was in the best interest of the state of Missouri, and that's the reason I signed the bill,' the governor said.

The bill would require the state to help finance construction of a $200 million football stadium in St. Louis. The debt would be repaid to the state through revenue earned by operation of the stadium.

Supporters of the bill said state assistance was needed to persuade the National Football League to award an expansion team to St. Louis.

The bill also would require the state to spend up to $4 million a year for maintenance of stadiums used by the Kansas City Royals baseball team and the Kansas City Chiefs football team. Supporters said the financial inducement was needed to keep the two teams from moving to other cities. The bill also would provide money for expansion of a convention center in Kansas City.


'I have in the past expressed significant reservations about this bill, and some of those reservations remain,' Ashcroft said. 'However, I am convinced that the unquestionable economic benefits of this bill outweigh its structural shortcomings, many of which may be overcome through later agreements.

'It would be a mistake to label this bill a 'stadium bill,' for if it were not more than that I would not be signing it. The preponderance of the economic benefit of this bill comes from the expanded convention activity which will result.'

He said the legislation would ensure that 'economic benefit derived from the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs will be continued.'

Ashcroft noted that construction of a football stadium in St. Louis 'is uncertain pending negotiations among the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the state.

'A number of unanswered questions linger, which must be resolved before the state support envisioned by the (St. Louis) proponents can be realized,' the governor said.

State support for the St. Louis and Kansas City projects is contingent upon equal financial commitments from local governments.

Ashcroft said he would do everything within his power to help obtain a professional expansion football team for St. Louis, 'including starting at quarterback.'


Kansas City Mayor Richard Berkley was among the dignitaries present for the bill-signing ceremony.

'This is a great day for the state of Missouri,' Berkley said. 'It will have a lasting effect on Missouri for many years to come.'

Sen. J.B. Banks, D-St. Louis, said, 'This is the greatest piece of legislation ever passed in Missouri.'

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