The scuttlebutt continues over whether St. Louis will accept the Rams‘ arbitrator-approved $700 million stadium renovation plan (doubtful) or perhaps negotiate a plan to build an entirely new stadium instead (more likely), with KMOV-TV one of those doing the butt-scuttling. There not much solid to the report beyond speculation, but buried in it is an interesting quote:
Either way, if taxpayers are going to be asked to pitch in to pay for renovations or a new stadium for the Rams, city hall is promising you get to decide.
“If for some reason there are any general taxes or fees, and I can’t envision what they are, but if there are any, they’d have to go to a vote of the people,” said Jeff Rainford, St. Louis Mayor Slay’s chief of staff.
My first thought: Well, that’s nice, though “if for some reason there are any general taxes or fees” is a somewhat suspicious loophole Rainford left the city. My second thought: Wait, this isn’t a promise, it’s a legal requirement. And it should apply whether a stadium is funded via “general taxes” or any other kind of public money.
Let’s set the Wayback Machine for November 2004, when the St. Louis Cardinals had just pushed through public funding for their own new stadium, against the staunch opposition of St. Louis community activists:
A St. Louis County referendum to bar public funding of sports facilities without a voter referendum looks to be passing easily (72-28% with 65% of precincts reporting), according to the Associated Press.
Pass it did. And while it turned out to be too late to stop the Cardinals deal, it would absolutely require a new Rams stadium to be submitted to a vote, regardless of whether it used new taxes, old taxes, or strange taxes. And that could mean a much more difficult path for the Rams, since the general electorate is almost always a tougher crowd for stadium subsidy demands than a group of legislators, if only because they’re harder to lobby. (Yes, Rams fans would likely be mobilized by the threat of the team moving otherwise, but move threats tend to play even better with legislators than with the general public as well.)
If this becomes a major issue, I actually wonder if the Rams and St. Louis might end up looking to renovate the Edward Jones Dome, not because it’d be cheaper or a better idea, but because it would be easier to get approved. (Renovations aren’t covered by the 2004 referendum, only new stadiums.) Or maybe they could build a new stadium elsewhere and attach it via a mile-long piece of string to the Jones Dome, and call it an “improvement” of the old structure. You laugh now, but crazier things have happened.