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Legislature votes to continue funding convention, sports centers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri General Assembly has voted to extend state appropriations for the Truman Sports Complex and Bartle Hall as funding is set to expire.

Championed by freshman GOP Rep. Jon Patterson, the bill also includes funding for improvements to the Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

On Wednesday, the House voted 89-58 to truly agree and finally pass HB 677.

The proposal received pushback from multiple members of the body who saw funding for centers that house Missouri’s professional sports teams as a misuse of taxpayer funds.

“This is welfare for the rich,” said Republican Rep. Bruce DeGroot.

Opponents argued the state only has a limited amount of resources, and taxpayer money going to “billionaire sports teams” may not be the best use of those funds. They questioned if it would be a good investment for the Show-Me State.

Patterson pushed back, pointing to the amount of direct revenue brought in to the state; direct taxes collected from the Truman Sports Complex alone amounted to roughly $27 million in 2017.  

He also argued that investing in the Enterprise Center would enable large events to be held in Missouri, which would bring in millions in tax revenue. Patterson noted the city will miss out on events from NCAA Wrestling, USA Gymnastics, LiveNation, US Figure Skating, and more without the investment.

“Do we think it wise in our state to make a small investment and host premiere events?” asked Patterson.

Under the bill, the Truman Sports Complex — home to the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs — would continue to get $3 million for operations annually through 2029, Bartle Hall would continue receiving $2 million in state funding, and the Enterprise Center — home of the St. Louis Blues — would get $3.5 million for 20 years for improvements.

Added in the Senate is a clawback provision that will allow the state to recuperate investment if the Blues ever relocate.

Others in support of the measure noted the buildings are publicly owned, and the Blues only occupy the building part of the time.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

House committee advances proposal for funding convention, sports centers