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Explore St. Louis President to Step Down Amid Criticism

Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe

Longtime Explore St. Louis president Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe is set to step down August 31, almost 10 months ahead of her contract expiration in June 2025. While neither Ratcliffe nor Explore St. Louis gave a precise reason for her exit, Ratcliffe’s retirement comes amid recent criticisms over the alleged mishandling of a $256 million renovation project to St. Louis’ downtown convention center.  

The project has been plagued with budget overruns and delays for years, with accusations of mismanagement and that the project wouldn’t bring enough business to justify its construction costs.  

The project was originally funded by a settlement from a lawsuit filed by the City, County and St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Authority against the NFL after it relocated the St. Louis Rams football team to Los Angeles in 2016. According to St. Louis Public Radio, $30 million of the original settlement was put toward the project, but rising construction costs necessitated additional funding requests over the past two years, including the use of pandemic relief funds in 2022.  

In June 2024, Explore St. Louis announced it was exploring options for an early exit for Ratcliffe and had begun planning for her successor. Ratcliffe’s exit also coincides with reports that Midas Hospitality CEO David Rober had been calling for a change in the leadership of the organization, and that Ratcliffe had spent too much time focusing on the troubled convention center expansion and not enough time on “operational items,” according to an article from the St. Louis Business Journal.  

Ratcliffe had spent 18 years leading the helm of Explore St. Louis, with the Explore St. Louis’s Board of Commissioners praising Ratcliffe’s tenure in a statement released by Explore St. Louis:

“The Board of Commissioners thanks Kitty Ratcliffe for 18 years of service to Explore St. Louis and her many successes. We’re focused on creating a seamless transition for the organization with the goal of selecting a new leader who will continue the work of growing and enhancing the economically vital convention, meeting and tourism industry in St. Louis City and St. Louis County," Board Chairman Steve O’Loughlin said in a press release.

Ratcliffe also released a statement saying, “I have been fortunate to spend my career in an industry I love–hospitality–working with some of the finest individuals both here in St. Louis and across the country. During my tenure in St Louis, our team has breathed new life into aging infrastructure and overhauled and updated our business practices, enabling us to bring more leisure and convention business to this community than ever before…It has been my true honor to work with some talented community leaders during these past years, and I share with them a love for St. Louis that is at the heart of what we all do."

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Logan Pratt | Digital Content Coordinator

Logan Pratt joined Meetings Today in May 2023 as digital content coordinator, focusing on digital marketing efforts and covering breaking news stories for the Meetings Today website and newsletters. To send a press release or any information regarding the meetings and events industry please email