The effort to build a new riverfront stadium to keep the Rams in St. Louis suffered a blow last week. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon informed St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger's office that the county's participation in the proposed $985 million stadium deal was no longer necessary. In the past Stenger has been cautious about participating in the deal, and has said he wants a public vote before committing county tax dollars towards a stadium.
With Rams owner Stan Kroenke presenting his plans for a nearly two billion dollar stadium in Inglewood (Calif.) to fellow NFL owners last week, Nixon is under pressure to complete the financing for a St. Louis stadium. As the chairman of the Edward Jones Dome Authority explained to the Post-Dispatch, the threat of St. Louis County residents voting against the stadium is too big to keep the county in the deal:
[Jim] Shrewsbury said the uncertainty of a public election is, right now, worse than losing $6 million a year from the county. "One of the issues that needs to be resolved is the financing," he said. "The quicker that's done the better chance we have of prevailing in this matter. And if there's some doubt as to whether or not the county can participate, it's better to move without them."
What is left unclear is how Nixon plans on coming up with money to replace the $6 million per year that St. Louis County was supposed to fund.
County Executive Stenger has good reason to be skeptical of the deal. Using public funds to subsidize sports stadiums for billionaires is a scam that local governments should walk away from. Stenger knows this, because St. Louis County is still paying off the last damn stadium it ponied up funds for!
St. Louis County currently pays $6 million annually to pay off bonds issued to build the 20-year-old Edward Jones Dome, and will be paying that $6 million per year until 2021. Given the speed at which the St. Louis group has to move if they want to prevent the Rams from decamping for Los Angeles, if the deal went through as originally constructed, in the near future St. Louis County would be paying $6 million a year for the "old" unused stadium and $6 million a year for the new one, all for a football team that will only play eight games a year (plus any exhibition or playoff games) in it.
Those that would like to keep the Rams in St. Louis have a hard row to hoe. For local governments unsure about committing public money for new NFL stadiums, relocation is not a threat but a promise. As unfortunate as it would be for fans of the Rams if the team moved 1,800 miles west, the very least the residents of St. Louis County deserve is to vote on whether to use their own tax money to support a scam. It'd be more than the residents of Inglewood got.
Drawing of proposed St. Louis riverfront stadium via HOK