The Art of the Steal


A rendering of the proposed riverfront stadium, National Car Rental Field

As we chronicled in our piece in March, The RAMifications of Inaction, the St. Louis stadium situation has existed in a fragile state of flux for some time now. At that time, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke had been linked to a land acquisition deal that, in essence, signaled his intentions of financing a new NFL-ready stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California; ushering the return of the Los Angeles Rams.


Kroenke’s designs on Inglewood, California’s Hollywood Park

Since that time, both Governor Nixon and the City of St. Louis have kicked their ‘Save the Rams’ campaign into overdrive; pushing a $985,000,000 riverfront stadium project north of downtown St. Louis. The project seemed to receive a further boost in support after proponents announced that National Car Rental has secured the naming rights to the new stadium, provide that there’s an NFL team in St. Louis, of course.

City officials have said they’ll cover $150,000,000 of the proposed $1 billion riverfront stadium. But that agreement must be written into legislation, voted on by the city Board of Aldermen, and signed into law by Mayor Francis Slay. The issue is how to use game-day revenues — for instance, taxes on stadium parking, hot dogs and the like. The city is likely going to issue a new round of bonds backed by $6 million a year from city general revenues that is now going to pay-off the current remaining debt on the Edward Jones Dome, where the St. Louis Rams currently play. Certainly not enough to cover the full cost of $150 million.

Through a Sunshine Law request, St. Louis Magazine obtained documents showing that city taxpayers will end up paying $215 million more than previously disclosed. The documents reveal a schedule of loan payments appropriated from Game Day tax revenue between 2021 and 2051 that show the city’s burden elevating from $4.785 million to a ridiculous $9.975 million by 2051. Those payments are compounded with the base rental payments included in another schedule, which by 2023 will rise from $5 million annually to $6 million, again until 2051. In total, by 2051 St. Louis will be paying $15.975 million annually for the proposed stadium. An astronomical price tag for any city.


The much maligned Edward Jones Dome

This all coincides with the fact that St. Louis is five years away from having fully paid-off the public debt associated with the much maligned Edward Jones Dome. Not to mention that the taxpayers of St. Louis were denied a public vote on the public financing package, a move that was justified by officials with the assertion that the financing of the new stadium would continue at the same level as before and require no tax increases.

So why the increase? Well, presumably the sudden need for increased funding from the city stems from the fact that when St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger refused to avoid putting the issue to a vote in the countyprompting Governor Nixon to cut the county out of the deal entirely.

So, when Stenger insisted upon letting his constituents vote on their share of public financing, Governor Nixon removed the county from the deal and shifted their anticipated share of the costs over to city residents, who had conveniently already been denied any say in the matter.


St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger

While the information came to St. Louis Magazine via an open records request, the timing would certainly suggest that someone intentionally selected the two-day window of October 6-7 to drop the news, perhaps in the hopes of throwing a wrench into the plan by some NFL owners to let the San Diego Chargers move to Los Angeles and to keep the Rams in St. Louis, with a new stadium partially funded by taxpayers.

If that extra $215 million keeps the riverfront stadium from being constructed, it becomes a lot harder to make a case for keeping the Rams in St. Louis. Which makes it easier for Kroenke to keep his L.A. plan on track.

NFL fans Tom Bateman (L-R), 43, Skye Sverdlin, 36, Daniel Balma, 36, and Joe Ramirez, 54, show their support for the St. Louis Rams NFL team to come to Los Angeles at a news conference to unveil plans for development at the site of the former Hollywood Park Race Track in Inglewood, Los Angeles, California, January 5, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SPORT FOOTBALL) - RTR4K5M0

The drama continues.

24th State Solutions

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