BERNIE MIKLASZ WATCH: ST. LOUIS BLUES, POLITICS AND ST. LOUIS



This week the St. Louis Blues ownership announced they were selling the team. This was surprising news as the current owners were looking to move an NBA franchise to St. Louis. Bernie’s column deals with why the local government should work to keep the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis instead of moving to a city like Kansas City or Las Vegas.

Bernie starts off his article by talking a little but about the snake bitten St. Louis Blues franchise:

If the Blues aren’t cursed, they’re certainly tormented. And troubled. After all of these years, the town’s hockey team is still in search of stability and championship-caliber success. Peace and prosperity remain elusive to this frustrating franchise. Once again, the Blues have been put up for adoption.

He then pays homage to Bill and Nancy Laurie who are the owners that are selling the team:

When Bill and Nancy Laurie bought the team and the lease to the Savvis Center in 1999, they appeared to be ideal owners. They lived within driving distance. They had a billion dollars in the bank. They were passionate about sports. They had big plans for the Blues and the arena and the city, starting with financial security and a Stanley Cup for the hockey team and the addition of an NBA franchise for St. Louis.

He then talks about how the Lauries learned about owning a hockey franchise and had great dreams for the team and the Savvis Center. Bernie explains why it’s over:

The Lauries are no longer so wide-eyed and precocious in their outlook on hockey in the STL. According to Blues officials, the Lauries have lost $60 million over the past two years. And since Savvis Center opened in 1994, the building and the hockey team have combined to run up a cash deficit of $225 million. Hockey isn’t a smart long-term investment. The Lauries are out.

$60 million dollars lost on a hockey team. Wow. That is stunning. How does it happen?

We’ll never know. Bernie doesn’t lay out the specifics.

Bernie then talks about how the local city and state governments have given a ton of breaks to the St. Louis Rams and St. Louis Cardinals:

The state and the city have wobbled and given in on the tax issue before. The state and the city and St. Louis County teamed to pay for a football stadium that eventually housed the Rams. The Rams’ lease calls for the stadium to be maintained to high standards, so public money is still being used for periodic upgrades, even though the Rams are highly profitable. The Rams also got deal sweeteners, including a new practice facility, for moving here.

The Cardinals open a new ballpark next season, and they’re receiving public money for road and infrastructure work and other stadium-related costs. The city also waived its 5 percent amusement tax for the Cardinals owners to keep the new stadium in the city.

His next paragraph is a perfect summary of the St. Louis Blues’ experience in dealing with local city and state governments:

Ok, Bernie doesn’t explain how the St. Louis Blues are getting the shaft. Instead, he moves onto why it’s important to have them stay in St. Louis.

The Savvis Center however, won’t do jack for the city, and downtown interests, if there’s no hockey team or NBA team to fill valuable dates. That’s the reality. So really, it’s up to the city to decide what to do with this investment. Think short term, and stick with the 5 percent amusement tax. Or think long term and consider this: If there are no major league sporting events at Savvis Center, then where will the revenue come from? Surely, bright people can come up with a solution to satisfy hockey ownership while accommodating the city’s desire for a piece of the revenue.

Bernie ends the column by warning local city and state governments that it’ll cost more to replace the St. Louis Blues:

Same with pro football. After the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988, the enormous cost of luring the Rams here was far greater than the cheaper alternative of keeping the Cardinals here.

If high taxes are going to drive the Blues out of this market – say, to Kansas City – then it’ll cost considerably more, long-term, to replace them.

Score: 6 out of 10