With entertainment, convention, hotel and restaurant business decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, expansion of the America’s Center Convention Center in downtown St. Louis could provide a much-needed beacon of hope, helping the city to compete for future entertainment and convention dollars – if only the city would release bonds to finance the $210 million expansion.
After months of wrangling over which city office would control the funding, the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment in February approved the financing agreement for the city’s share of the bonds. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing with it a sudden recession.
City officials, worried about piling on debt in the current economic environment, in April refused to release financing for the long-awaited expansion, risking impact to the city’s event and entertainment industry not only in the near term but years into the future.
The Entertainment and Event Alliance of St. Louis (EEASL) –– made up of IBEW Local 1 (Electricians), IBEW Local 4 (Broadcasting and Recording), IATSE Local 6 (Stagehands), IATSE Local 143 (Projectionists), IATSE Local 493 (Missouri Studio Mechanics), IATSE Local 805 (Wardrobe-Hair-Makeup), Musicians Local 2-197 AFM, SAG-AFTRA (Performers and Broadcasters), Teamsters Local 600 (Convention and Trade Shows), Teamsters Local 610 (Misc. Drivers and Healthcare), United Scenic Artists USA 829, Unite Here Local 74, and USW Local 39 (Decorators and Displaymen) –– sent the following letter last week to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed and Comptroller Darlene Green urging they do everything they can to get the City of St. Louis moving on having the bonds for America’s Center expansion released:
The Entertainment and Event Alliance of St. Louis is comprised of the various Labor Union Locals that represent workers of all facets of the Entertainment and Event Industry in our region.
The Convention and Visitors Commission and America’s Center and its $5.8 Billion impact on the St. Louis economy are primary economic engines that drive the Entertainment and Event industry.
An event based at America’s Center employs workers of every Local of our Alliance including the various technicians who set up and operate the meeting rooms and exhibits, the freight handlers who transport and handle all the materials, the cleaning crew who prepare the venue for each day’s attendees, the hundreds of workers who help lead the attendees to their various locations, the on-site food and beverage workers, the hotel, hospitality, food and beverage workers serving the needs of attendees off site, and the talented local entertainers that help make the visit to our city even more memorable.
We understand there are valid budgetary concerns in the City of St. Louis. We also understand the expansion of America’s Center that both St. Louis City and St. Louis County have agreed to is desperately needed for us to continue competing with other markets. It is an investment that will provide hundreds of construction jobs done by local contractors using local construction trade workers and once completed will improve the employment prospects of all the workers our EEASL Locals represent.
The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically shown how much the economy of our region depends on tourism and hospitality dollars. Our industry was one of the first affected as every scheduled event was postponed or cancelled. The most glaring example of how hard our industry was hit can be seen in the contradiction of the famous adage, “the show must go on.” On September 13, 2001, two days after the twin towers were destroyed on 9/11, performances resumed on Broadway. On March 12, 2020, Broadway shut down. It has not yet reopened.
The show must go on. The show will go on. Our workers will help make that happen through their talent, skills, dedication, hard work and perseverance. Our great City will recover and come through this stronger and more prosperous than ever, but we need each other.
The Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC) is selling for 2023, 2024 and 2025 events. They are doing so based on having a bigger better facility ready to go. The time lost now means the projected end of 2021 completion dream is not very realistic. Rather than using this down time for progress, it’s being eaten up in delays which means future events potentially lost. Our friends with the CVC are great at selling our convention center, our workers and our city. We need to be doing all we can to help them succeed. The number one thing they need now is progress. Please do all you can to help fill that need. Please, let’s get this moving.
Business Agent IATSE Local 6
Vice President EEASL
Business Agent USW Local 39
GORDON J. HAYMAN