By Gloria Lloyd
The America’s Center convention complex could undergo a $175 million redevelopment designed to attract more national conventions, funded by city and county hotel taxes.
The plan is supported by St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson but would have to be approved by the County Council and the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to move forward.
Plans call for the addition of 180,000 square feet of exhibit space and meeting areas to the America’s Center, which was built in 1977 and expanded in the 1990s when the adjoining football stadium, the Dome at America’s Center, was built for the Rams.
The money will come from a 6-percent hotel-motel tax instituted in the city and county to fund the construction of the Dome, which brings in $6 million a year from each or $12 million annually. Those bonds will be paid off in 2021. But under the new proposal, the bonds will continue for 40 years to fund the expansion.
The plans, which have been dubbed the “AC Next Gen Project” by the St. Louis tourism bureau, Explore St. Louis, are meant to keep the city more competitive in bids for national and international conventions. St. Louis has been losing out lately to other cities that have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their convention centers.
Stenger said he strongly supports the project because thousands of county residents work at America’s Center, with those jobs dependent on new conventions.
“I’m pleased to work with the County Council, Mayor Krewson and Explore St. Louis to bring a new standard of excellence to our convention facilities to attract national and international events to our facilities,” Stenger said.
The Economic Development Partnership estimates that more than 3,000 St. Louisans overall are employed at the convention facility.