County Executive Steve Ehlmann told the St. Charles County Council at its July 9 meeting that the county has placed a notice in a legal publication asking for proposals from anyone willing to purchase the property.
“We had someone express an interest in doing exactly that and we had to explain them that’s great but we also have to offer the public, or anyone who is interested, an opportunity to bid on it,” Ehlmann said. Bids must be submitted by 3 p.m. on July 20.
Ehlmann said the bid information will be shared with the council and that the county is under no obligation to accept any bid. It’s an opportunity to see if there is a market for the arena. “We will make a decision if that is in the best interest of the people of St. Charles County to sell or not to sell,” he said.
Interviewed later, Ehlmann said the county had not been trying to sell the Family Arena. “Someone, unsolicited “made an offer to purchase the facility,” he said.
He said the arena has become “less of a burden” on the county financially with County Financial Director Bob Schnur managing its operations over the past three years.
However, having the arena go to the private sector is nothing new. “You know that was the original intent,” Ehlmann said.
The Family Arena cost $27 million to build in 1999 and was funded by bonds. It was built with the idea that a private operator would run it; however, as early as 2001, the county took over the direct operation of the facility after a private contractor was unsuccessful.
Ehlmann said he could not say who the group or person is who made the inquiry because of a confidentiality agreement with the potential buyer.
“At this point, we cannot disclose buyer or dollars that they offered,” Schnur said after the council meeting. “We’ve solicited other proposals at this point. Our party, that we have been contacted by, is not up for disclosure.” He added that the county does not have a contract with the potential buyer.
Schnur said the sale of county real estate by law requires a competitive bidding process. Asked how the group or person would use the Family Arena, Schnur said simply, “They have ideas.”
The Family Arena, located at 2002 Arena Parkway, has 3,500 parking spaces. At the time of its construction, there were no medium-sized multi-purpose venues in the St. Louis area. The arena can seat more than more than 6,000 for half-house concerts and more than 11,000 for full concerts.
The arena has been the home venue for a number of minor league hockey, soccer, indoor football and basketball teams. It was a host for college basketball games including the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament and the site of nationally televised wrestling events.
Along with concerts and sporting events, it has been used for circuses such as the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, and ice shows such as Disney on Ice, trade shows and graduations.