TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME 

Minneapolis-based Conventions, Sports & Leisure International is hired to advise the Greater St. Louis Sports Authority on issues surrounding a new baseball stadium

There hasn't been much solid news about the Cardinals' desire for a new ballpark since the owners made their case to the Greater St. Louis Sports Authority early this year. The public reaction was less than enthusiastic and can be summarized in five words: What's wrong with Busch Stadium?

The authority last week hired a consultant to help answer that question — and several others. The authority, set up by the Missouri Legislature at the team's urging, is supposed to study the city's pro-sports facilities and issue its first annual report on Dec. 1. Chairman Joseph Cavato says the report will say more about what the authority plans to do than what it has accomplished, which so far isn't very much.

That's where Conventions, Sports & Leisure International comes in. The authority hired the Minneapolis-based firm to help set goals for the authority and identify issues it needs to address, all for the low, low price of $25,000 or so. The firm quoted the authority hourly rates of $195 for a project leader, $165 for a project manager and $115 for staff support, not including expenses.

There is, of course, the chance for really big bucks should a new stadium be built at an estimated cost of $240 million, which would require the issuance of construction bonds. That would explain why six executives from the investment-banking firm of A.G. Edwards spent an hour last Wednesday pitching their services to the authority. Just what was said is a secret — the meeting in a conference room at the downtown Wainwright Building was closed. But there were plenty of windows that gave a good view of the St. Louis company's proposal that was projected onto a wall. "Integrate development fundamentals with civic sensitivities resulting in a construction project, business deal and financing that will withstand public scrutiny" was one area of expertise.

In the end, the authority chose the out-of-towners, who summarized their proposal in five phases that included "develop authority scope and mission," "assist with statutory obligations," "develop framework for the analysis of sports industry impacts," "establish criteria concerning further growth" and, of course, "assist in selecting other consultants." Company executives and authority members said they don't have a game plan.

"At this point, our next meeting is to sit down and define where we're going," says Craig Skiem, a company principal who will be project leader.

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