The St. Louis board of aldermen’s ways and means committee voted 7-2 yesterday to approve a Rams stadium subsidy bill, sending the legislation to the full board. And while a final vote is still a week away, the writing seems to be on the wall, especially since board president and key swing vote Lewis Reed has gotten on board with the plan, seemingly in exchange for a minority-hiring package for stadium construction workers:
“We know that when we empower kids and give them the opportunity for careers it can dramatically change lives,” Aldermanic President Lewis Reed said.
Of course, St. Louis could give a lot more kids opportunity for careers by spending $400 million on pretty much anything other than building a football stadium, but hey, let’s not split hairs here.
The final plan is for a $1.01 billion stadium, with funding broken down like so:
- $250 million in state money, including both hotel tax money and state tax credits.
- $150 million in city money, part from the city’s share of hotel taxes, part from existing taxes on Rams parking, tickets, food, drinks, and souvenirs.
- $77 million in future operating and maintenance costs, to be paid for by the city.
- $200 million from the NFL’s G4 stadium loan program.
- The rest from Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who would get to use personal seat license payments and naming-rights fees to pay off most of it.
Reaction to the vote was swift and all over the place, depending on the person’s position on subsidizing almost half of a bilion-dollar stadium for a billionaire whose team just got its last new stadium at public expense 20 years ago:
- Rams stadium task force chief Dave Peacock said that “there’s obviously a lot more to do,” but that “this is a proud day as an American to see this process play out.”
- Alderwoman Megan Green tweeted that “the deal cutting, bribery, and [corruption] at City Hall will never cease to amaze me,” and added: “I’ve had loved ones offered bribes for my support. I’m not alone. Campaign finance reports will be interesting…” She also said she’s been in touch with the FBI about her allegations.
Assuming the city bill is approved, both Kroenke and his fellow owners will have separate decisions to make on whether to take what’s on the table in St. Louis or move the Rams to a new $1.8 billion stadium (with little in the way of public subsidies) in Los Angeles. The day before the vote, NFL VP Eric Grubman went on the radio to fume about how it’s not fair to argue against subsidizing the Rams just because of how rich Kroenke is (actually reasonable: the better argument to make against the subsidy is that its only purpose is to make Kroenke richer), and also to say that this offer still might not be sweet enough:
“St. Louis will fall short of having a compelling proposal that would attract the Rams,” Grubman said. “To that end, and I don’t mean to oversimplify and I’m certainly not going to negotiate the individual points: The stadium is going to cost more than is at the drawing board at the moment, the funding has declined and new taxes are being proposed to the Rams.”
Is that supposed to mean that Kroenke won’t take the bait and sign the deal, or that other NFL owners won’t block him from moving to L.A. if this is the St. Louis offer (Grubman also said the San Diego and Oakland stadium proposals are even less compelling), or just that this is how you haggle? Grubman didn’t say, and it’s entirely possible he doesn’t know.
He also noted that an offer good enough to keep the Rams isn’t the same as an offer good enough to keep the NFL, hinting that the league might let Kroenke walk and then try to take up the St. Louis offer for a new team (Oakland Raiders? An expansion team?) later on. But, you know, all of this has a lot of spin to it right now — that’s literally Grubman’s job — so reading too much into any statement is probably a mistake. More game of chicken to come!