The Jefferson Avenue footbridge is built to carry pedestrians over 13 different sets of railroad tracks that all pass north of Commercial Street. (Photo by Rance Burger)

They’re making a list and asking for millions. Santa Claus probably won’t pay big bucks for government-run construction projects in Springfield, but state lawmakers might help. 

At least, that’s the hope.

The Springfield City Council met Dec. 6 in preparation for 2024, the final year of possibilities for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) — and the potential for millions of dollars in federal funds that come with it. In an effort to try to secure passthrough funding from the state government, the City Council discussed a short list of projects it plans to lobby for in 2023.

The hope is that some of Springfield’s representatives and senators in the Missouri General Assembly can act through the legislative process to funnel funding to Springfield before the 2023 session ends in May in Jefferson City.

The full list of projects Springfield will seek American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for in 2023 includes:

  • Renew Jordan Creek
  • Jefferson Avenue Footbridge restoration
  • Site preparation at the LeCompte Area Industrial Site
  • Expansion and renovation of the Springfield Art Museum
  • Expansion of the Fieldhouse indoor sports facility on Republic Road
  • Improvements to the Springfield Expo Center
  • Development of the Chadwick Flyer Trail

“Just because a project is on this list doesn’t mean that staff — we’re not still identifying other possible funding sources or grants,” Springfield Director of Economic Vitality Amanda Ohlensehlen said. “These are prioritized projects or things our staff are working to try to fund on a day-to-day basis.”

Springfield Director of Finance David Holtmann reported a reserve fund, or “rainy day fund,” of around $17.4 million at the time the Springfield City Council set the 2022-2023 operating budget in June 2022. He referred to the reserve fund again when the City Council discussed its pending ARPA requests Dec. 6.

“We have healthy reserves for our city that we’ve been very prudent with, and we continue to ensure that we keep those healthy, but really we don’t have any new revenue stream or anything like that to provide a whole lot of funding for these projects,” Holtmann said.

The Fieldhouse

It would cost an estimated $10 million to renovate and expand the Fieldhouse, and all of it is unfunded as of Dec. 7, 2022. The Springfield-Greene County Park Board spent $7.5 million to buy the facility with indoor basketball and volleyball courts and assumed operational control on Sept. 28, 2021

“There is a need to kind of build on the investments from the Cooper complex to support indoor sporting events,” Ohlensehlen said.

In 2021, the Springfield Sports Commission hired consultants from the Huddle Up Group to analyze sporting facilities across Springfield with an eye toward making suggestions to bolster Springfield’s sports tourism economy.

“The expansion of the Expo Center and/or the Fieldhouse would likely generate a significant return to Springfield in the way of sports tourism,” the consultants wrote in an analysis of indoor facilities. “Expanding the court count and adding the right amenities would increase the relative scores for these venues and would likely drive more overnight stays from visiting teams in the future.”

City Manager Jason Gage pointed out that in order to attract out-of-town teams, the Fieldhouse would need to host larger events.

“This would be to get that facility to anchor status, which does get you on the radar more for those regional tournaments,” Gage said.

Adding indoor courts was the top priority among four key recommendations Huddle Up Group made to the Springfield Sports Commission.

The Springfield Expo Center

An audience member wearing a distinctive Hawaiian shirt listens to speakers from the back of the hall at at Mike Lindell’s Moment of Truth Summit at the Springfield Expo Center. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

The Springfield Expo Center needs about $6 million worth of work, and $4 million is unfunded. The Expo needs HVAC system and roof repairs, updates to its catering kitchen, an elevator and building-wide WiFi in order to attract top flight conventions.

John Q. Hammons built University Plaza and oversaw development of several other nearby properties, like Hammons Field and the Springfield Expo Center. He died at the age of 94 in 2013. The John Q. Hammons Trust then assumed control of his properties. The Revocable Trust of John Q. Hammons and its 75 subsidiary companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2016. 

Alphraetta, Georgia-based Atrium Hospitality owns 82 hotel properties in 29 different states, boasting almost 22,000 hotel rooms. In Springfield, the company operates University Plaza and at least three other hotels. Atrium controls the University Plaza Convention Center and the Springfield Expo Center.

“Is that a viable investment as long as they’re participating in that?” Councilman Richard Ollis asked.

“That’s a big question,” Gage said. “It depends on how we look at that. Long term, that facility could do better regardless of who’s managing it if they want to be aggressive.”

At a prior City Council meeting in 2022, Gage explained some binding elements of a contract between the city of Springfield and Atrium regarding the Expo.

“We have a pretty long contract that goes out into the future that establishes lots of guidances for their provision of services there,” Gage said. “It actually has responsibilities for Atrium and it has responsibilities for us, as well. There are some capital needs we have on our end that we need to look at funding at some point here in the future.”

LeCompte Industrial Site

LeCompte Road (shown in red) runs just east of U.S. Highway 65 (shown in blue) and serves the industrial sites on and around the Springfield Underground. LeCompte connects Kearney Street and Division Street (shown in yellow). (Illustration by Rance Burger, overlaid on map from Greene County Assessor’s Office)

The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded $1.5 million to widen LeCompte Road, which runs north and south along the east side of U.S. Highway 65 and connects key industrial sites.

Ohlensehlen identified an additional $6.9 million in needs to develop the second phase of development for the 200-acre site on top of the Springfield Underground.

Springfield and the Ozarks Transportation Organization will need to match the federal funding with $1.6 million in local funds to do the project. The road improvement is expected to generate $28 million in private investment in the industrial area in northeast Springfield, and create 94 jobs. The local funding will come from the city of Springfield’s 1/8-cent transportation sales tax cost-share program and the Erlen Group, formerly known in business as Springfield Underground.

“This really is Phase 2 of the LeCompte area to get that ready for industrial growth,” Ohlensehlen said of the next $6.9 million Springfield will seek from other sources.

“That’s a prime area for development,” Mayor Ken McClure said.

“Absolutely, and this really closely aligns with some of the state’s priorities and the competitiveness of our region to have more large scale industrial sites,” Ohlensehlen said. “When a company has a prospect that we receive, we want to have sites that are positioned and have the infrastructure necessary.”

Renew Jordan Creek

An architect’s rendering shows a concept for the Jordan Creek daylighting project on a piece of property west of downtown Springfield on West College Street. (Source: Forward SGF/City of Springfield)

The Jordan Creek daylighting project is a plan to unearth the underground section of the creek downtown, which proponents say will reduce flooding risks, improve water quality and create an outdoor greenspace for the community to enjoy, which will then spur economic growth downtown.

Renew Jordan Creek carries a total estimated price tag of about $30 million.

“Thus far, we have just over $20 million in funding sources identified, bringing our unfunded need to $9.7 million,” Ohlensehlen said.

The funding comes from eight different sources, most notably $6.77 million in level property tax revenue and $5 million in ARPA funding allocated from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. There is also a combined total of about $4.36 million in Springfield sales tax revenue.

The project was slated to receive $7.5 million in passthrough funding from the Missouri General Assembly in 2022, but Gov. Mike Parson’s power of line item veto put a stop to the funds June 30, 2022.

In his veto message, Parson made an indirect reference to State Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, who voted against a $69.2 million plan to develop a recreational trail along the Rock Island Railroad route from Franklin County to Henry County.

Hough, the vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked to get the two Springfield projects into an ARPA appropriations bill the Missouri General Assembly passed in May 2022, but Parson appeared to take veto action in light of Hough’s opposition to the Rock Island trail development.

“This funding was not part of my budget recommendations,” Parson wrote in his veto message. “However, this project could seek funding through other state programs. This project includes funding for a trail-linked public park space along a local waterway. The General Assembly has demonstrated its resistance to funding public trail spaces along waterways that have a statewide or regional impact, demonstrated economic return to local communities and the state, and significant citizen interest and advocacy.”

Jefferson Avenue Footbridge

The Jefferson Avenue footbridge was built by the American Bridge Company in 1902. It was made to carry pedestrians and cyclists over a rail yard between Commercial Street and Chase Street. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Commercial Street’s No. 1 landmark also met Parson’s power of veto June 30.

The Springfield City Council put $3.2 million in the public works budget to rehabilitate the bridge in 2021, but the lowest bid that came back for a contractor willing to accept the project was $5.8 million. The total price estimate to refurbish the bridge is now at $8 million, and Ohlensehlen reports only $4.8 million is in hand at this time.

The Jefferson Avenue footbridge is closed due to structural deficiency. It was built in 1902.

The paint on the bridge has worn to the point that it no longer protects the metal from corrosion.

The scope of the canceled 2021 project included the repair and/or replacement of corroded or lost steel, the replacement of wood decking, the replacement of stairs, the addition of elevators on the north and south bridge approaches to make it accessible to all and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Barricades block people from accessing the Jefferson Avenue footbridge from its south end at a plaza on Commercial Street. The bridge has been closed to foot traffic since 2016. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Chadwick Flyer Trail

The Chadwick Flyer Trail project will cost at least $20 million to develop, making it the largest undertaking in the history of the Ozark Greenways organization. The trail will link Springfield and Ozark by a 10- to 14-foot wide paved trail that follows much of the old Chadwick Flyer railroad line.

The greenway trail will provide a safe recreation path for walkers, runners, cyclists and persons in wheelchairs.

Ozark Greenways and Ozarks Transportation Organization are also heavily involved in development of the Chadwick Flyer Trail. Springfield’s portion has a price tag of about $12 million, and $9 million is unfunded.

Springfield Art Museum 

Springfield Art Museum Director Nick Nelson (standing, center) announces that the museum received a $5 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation at a ceremony March 3. (Photo by Rance Burger)

In 2022, the Springfield Art Museum received a $5 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation — established by a former president of the Ash Grove Cement Company, founded in 1882 to produce lime for construction. The gift sped up the art museum’s plan to complete renovations and additions in time for its official 100th anniversary, kicking off the “2028 Campaign.”

Why care?

The Springfield Art Museum is controlled and operated by the city of Springfield, and is supported by a mixture of donations and sales tax revenue. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum at the intersection of National and Brookside attracted an average of 63,000 visitors per year.

The plan is to turn the Springfield Art Museum into an outdoor and indoor destination, is a key part of Springfield’s master plan for the next 20 years, called Forward SGF. As of Dec. 6, about $12 million of the $25 million laid out in the 2028 Campaign is unfunded.

The master plan calls for the construction of a new education wing with a large learning center, art studio classrooms, a communal studio for artists, “flex spaces,” and administrative space for museum staff and partner organizations. The entrance will be on the south side of the building, which faces Brookside Drive.

The master plan also calls for Brookside Drive to be made into a boulevard that serves to welcome guests into the museum. The museum grounds will have an outdoor amphitheater, lawn, and trails leading toward nearby Phelps Grove Park.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger