Sports-Oriented Development Starts (Slowly) in St. Louis

It's not the grand slam that the Cardinals and their developer partner were hoping for, but news that the first piece of the $650 million Ballpark Village development project has started construction was welcomed in St. Louis.
February 28, 2013, 9am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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With cautious city officials and investors sitting on the sidelines, the St. Louis Cardinals and their developer partner started construction on the $100 million first phase of their ambitious Ballpark Village project, a $650 million mixed-use entertainment-oriented development located adjacent to their downtown stadium, reports Maura Webber Sadovi.

"The developers are hoping to generate interest in the broader project by starting with a smaller piece and adding streets and other infrastructure to make the 10-acre site ready for development. But analysts said financing and the project's completion remain a challenge, as cities and investors more carefully scrutinize entertainment-oriented developments."

"Sports- and entertainment-based facilities have had a really mixed history of success, so investors are becoming pickier about what they do," said Joseph Krist, a municipal-credit analyst with a unit of Swiss bank UBS AG. "Before the financial crisis, there was a greater appetite."

"St. Louis needs the spark that the project may bring," notes Sadovi. "The city's population has dropped more than 50% since 1950 to an estimated 318,000 in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau."

"It's a great start," said Mark Rosentraub, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, "They're not just building a stadium and hoping and wishing."

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Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 in The Wall Street Journal
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