The group pushing a regional youth sports complex in St. Louis County says it could attract more than 2 million visitors per year and generate millions in tax revenue on the site of a dying Hazelwood mall.
But they need St. Louis County to chip in about $8 million to make the $92 million project work. And the city of Hazelwood would need to buy up some $30 million in special taxing district debt encumbering the property.
The massive proposal, including a 750-foot long dome for indoor play, would put baseball fields and basketball and volleyball courts alongside entertainment, restaurants and retail on the site of the nearly vacant St. Louis Outlet Mall, originally known as the St. Louis Mills when it opened only 15 years ago.
Big Sports Properties, led by former newscaster and former St. Patrick Center CEO Dan Buck, pitched the POWERplex sports complex to a St. Louis County Council committee Wednesday. The hurdle Big Sports needs to clear is a roughly $36 million debt held by the transportation development district established on the mall site. The special sales tax district has seen revenue plummet as stores in the mall closed, putting the property at risk of foreclosure, Buck said.
Hazelwood is offering to buy the outstanding TDD bonds to clear the way for Buck’s group to buy the mall property. Hazelwood City Manager Matthew Zimmerman said officials believe the project should generate enough new tax revenue from visitors so the city can service the debt.
Still, Hazelwood officials say they need the county to chip in to make their numbers work. Some $6 million of a county contribution would go to the Hazelwood site to free up money for debt service. The city of Bridgeton is also partnering on the project, and $2 million would go toward turning the fields at the Bridgeton Athletic Complex just across Highway 370 from dirt to turf for tournament play.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has signaled tentative support for the proposal. County Council Chairman Sam Page, whose district includes the mall site, said the county would look at its budget.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch