After a spectacular weekend of pro hockey and other entertainment at Busch Stadium, and the euphoric effect it had on the region, how Missouri's newly elected Governor can, without fear of challenge, come out against investment in facilities by the taxpayers is baffling and frighteningly short-sighted.
I get that Eric Greitens is an anti-tax, balance-the-budget kind of politician. I see where he's coming from. But what's more important is; where is his state going? And what will become of life in the St. Louis area if the new governor's population is deprived of opportunity to view events in venues that are up-to-date and competitive with those of other Midwest cities? And, by the way Mr. governor-elect, who's money built the great facilities in the state's other major city? Will St. Louis sports fans just throw up their hands and head for other, more progressive cities and states to spend their money and time? These are questions that Mr. Greitens should ask himself before declaring that tax money for sports venues amounts to welfare for millionaires. What I'm hearing is that the millionaires are willing to put up their fair share.
Nobody should believe that government is all about sports, or providing money for sports entertainment options. But then, nobody should believe that government isn't about that either. Government builds roads...provides necessary services to the populace...funds police and fire protection...operates the criminal-justice system, education of children, and provides and operates many other facets of modern life. Isn't one of government's duties to protect, nurture and grow the economy of its area of responsibility so that all of those other things have operating capital? Where is tax money supposed to come from if we don't have a thriving economy generating it? I believe the economy includes the sports economy. It's about the best thing government has going as an economic engine other than the state lottery.
If you were part of the throngs that attended this weekend's Winter Classic and Alumni Classic, you likely are still enjoying the afterglow of what was thought to be one of the all-time great events held in the Gateway City. If you weren't there, I have news for you. Educated analysis indicates this weekend generated close to 20 million dollars of investment in the St. Louis area that otherwise would not have happened. Sure, the event helps to stabilize and fortify the economies of the various ownership groups involved. But it also generated oodles of tax money for the St. Louis public sector. How can anyone, governor-elect or otherwise, say that such an event is all about sports ownership profiteering?
I was there on the day Scottrade Center hosted its first hockey game. It was sparkling and state-of-the-art. It remained so for several years. But those early years have long-since faded and Scottrade is now just another twenty-plus-year-old building with amenities and infrastructure that can't compete with newer facilities in cities that are stealing away business that used to come here.
Investing in Scottrade Center, and/or a new soccer stadium for an MLS team, can be seen as corporate welfare if you choose to look at it that way. But it should be seen as road building, or some other responsibility of our government and elected officials. Without decent roads, you can't get to where you want to go. And without attractive and competitive facilities you can't reap the rewards of regional and national sports events that would pump millions of dollars into your roads, police departments, city halls, and other essential services. So, without facilities, again, you can't get to where you want to go.
I'd like to think that we live in a progressive and forward-thinking area that can, and would like to, be better than other cities and states. Do we? Are we road builders, or just the maintenance crew?
Want more food for thought on this? Check out this analysis from Patrick Rishe on Forbes.com.