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Missouri taxpayers pay for $4M in improvements to Springfield baseball stadium

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(The Center Square) – New lights shining in Springfield’s minor league baseball stadium were paid for with $4 million from Missouri taxpayers.

The city of Springfield and the Springfield Cardinals recently announced completion of the lighting project and expressed thanks to Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and area legislators for securing the funds in House Bill 7, which appropriated $850 million for the Department of Economic Development. The bill also included $28.6 million for construction of a park over Interstate 670 in Kansas City and $20 million for construction of public infrastructure to support an amphitheater in Jefferson City.

“The LED lights are not only a critical upgrade in continuing to bring our ballpark into compliance with Major League Baseball’s facility standards, but they will also greatly enhance the fan experience during games and events and allow us to really have some fun from an entertainment standpoint,” Springfield Cardinals General Manager Dan Reiter said in a statement.

Springfield purchased Hammons Field, the 8,000-seat home of the Double-A baseball team and the Missouri State University baseball team, for $12 million in March. Springfield used unrestricted savings from its general fund and money earmarked for “economic vitality” from its property tax fund for the purchase, according to a media release from the city.

Springfield also created an initial $4 million capital improvement fund to make immediate improvements, mandated by Major League Baseball, to address player health and safety and spectator experiences. The state funds will cover those costs.

“It is no secret that tourism drives Missouri forward and provides a benefit and boon to state revenue, and we believe this project only strengthens Springfield as a tourist destination for the state,” Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said in a statement expressing thanks to Parson and area legislators for the money. “The City is working closely with the Springfield Cardinals to improve the facilities, as well as identifying opportunities to improve the visitor experience and remain competitive.”

The city’s purchase of the stadium came after the Springfield Cardinals filed a lawsuit against the previous stadium owners, according to a report in the Springfield Business Journal. The John Q. Hammons Charitable Trust and JD Holdings LLC, failed to honor capital improvement obligations, including new lighting at the stadium, replacement of seats and renovation of suites totaling $8 million.

JD Holdings LLC purchased approximately $1 billion in assets from the John Q. Hammons Hotels and Resorts, consisting of 35 hotels and dozens of other assets, and then created a new Hammons trust with $20 million in 2018.

Springfield purchased the stadium and two lots for parking. The St. Louis Cardinals in May sold the Springfield baseball club to Diamond Baseball Holdings. Springfield also signed a 15-year lease with the baseball club.

Parson vetoed five items for a total of $1.8 million from the bill.

Springfield also expressed thanks for $8 million in state funding to repair a footbridge over 13 rail lines. The bridge, closed since 2016, allows pedestrians access to a commercial district.

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