St. Louis approves funding for new Rams stadium

Posted at 6:04 PM, Dec 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-18 20:04:26-05

St. Louis aldermen on Friday agreed to spend $150 million to help finance a new riverfront football stadium as part of the effort to keep the Rams from moving.

Aldermen voted 17-10 to approve the measure. "Won by a touchdown," said Alderman Jack Coatar, a sponsor of the bill.

The vote does not guarantee that owner Stan Kroenke will keep the team in St. Louis, but was considered vital toward the effort to build the new $1 billion stadium that could entice NFL owners against allowing the Rams to move.

The Rams and two other teams are seeking to move to Los Angeles. League owners meet next month to consider the issue.

In a statement, the stadium task force appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon called the vote "a significant milestone in the effort to see our NFL stadium and riverfront renewal project come to life and, in doing so, keep the St. Louis Rams here in St. Louis."

Nixon, in a statement, said the stadium would transform the north riverfront with private investment and create jobs, all without a tax increase.

But there was plenty of opposition. Alderwoman Sharon Tyus recalled it was just 24 years ago when the same governmental body approved financing to build the now-outdated Edward Jones Dome, the Rams' current home.

"We haven't learned anything," she said during debate on the funding plan.

About 50 people crammed into the viewing gallery at City Hall -- some supporters, but more opponents. Several booed when the vote was announced.

"Shame on you!" one woman shouted at aldermen.

The Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders all want to move to Los Angeles, perhaps as early as next season. Kroenke is part of a group planning a $1.8 billion stadium in Inglewood, California. The Chargers and Raiders have teamed up on a joint venture for a stadium in Carson, California.

League owners meet Jan. 12-13 in Houston to decide if up to two of the teams are allowed to relocate. But members of the St. Louis stadium task force have said that even if the Rams move, a new stadium along the Mississippi River north of the Gateway Arch could lure another team.

A possible glitch in the plan is a letter sent Thursday from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and members of the stadium task force he appointed. Goodell warned in the letter that the league provides a maximum of $200 million to help teams build new stadiums, not the $300 million proposed in the measure before aldermen.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined to comment on the letter.

The original stadium task force plan called for $200 million from the league, but that was changed just before a preliminary vote by aldermen on Tuesday. Under the new proposal, the city would give up tax revenue in exchange for the additional $100 million from the NFL.

The league has set a Dec. 30 deadline for the stadium plan to be finalized.

Critics in St. Louis and elsewhere in Missouri say taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for yet another football stadium. The Edward Jones Dome opened in 1995, built entirely with taxpayer money. The Rams played what was potentially their last-ever game there Thursday night, beating Tampa 31-23. Their final two games are on the road.

Last month, Republican Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson sent Nixon, a Democrat, a list of 120 House members opposed to funding the stadium.

In addition to the city's $150 million and $300 million from the league, the St. Louis stadium proposal calls for $250 million from the team owner, $160 million in fan seat licenses, and the rest of the money from the state, either through tax credits or bonds.