The St. Louis board of aldermen voted 17-10 to approve the Rams stadium subsidy package yesterday, which normally should have been the big news, since that means it will have the 15 votes needed for final passage on Friday. (Yes, they have to vote on it twice. No, you don’t really need to know why.) But in the latest crazy twist, the approval was overshadowed by the news that the proposed funding plan has changed yet again:
- The NFL would increase its contribution from $200 million to $300 million. That’s more than the $200 million cap that the NFL’s G-4 fund is limited to per project, but as we’ve seen before, the NFL has no problem making up its rules as it goes along. (And as of this morning, it now appears that the NFL hasn’t even formally discussed the extra G-4 money, but rather it’s just a request from the St. Louis stadium task force.)
- If the NFL increases its contribution, the city would kick back an estimated $3 million a year in ticket taxes to the Rams, instead of using it to help pay off its share of stadium bonds. (This is part of the “game day taxes” the city took back in exchange for letting the Rams use stadium naming-rights money, but which the NFL has been insisting really should go to the team owner, because paying taxes is for suckers.) That would be worth about $50 million in present value, though if ticket prices rise with inflation, it could be more like $90 million, making it almost a wash with the increased G-4 money.
- The state task force is “seeking to” boost rent paid by the football team from $700,000 a year to $1.5 million, which would at least be something if it happens, but it doesn’t appear to be guaranteed in this bill.
Confused yet? Imagine how you’d feel if you were a member of the board of aldermen, who only received the new bill language on Monday night. Or don’t imagine, because one alderman made it pretty clear:
“We literally have no idea what we’re voting on,” said Alderman Scott Ogilvie. “How can we conceivably get hundreds of millions of dollars of changes in a bill with no notice?”
Not much more enthusiastic was one of his colleagues who actually voted for the bill:
“It is extortion,” said Alderman Antonio French. “The NFL and [Rams owner Stan] Kroenke don’t need this money, but they’re in a position to demand it. So what we’ve tried to do is put together a bill that stinks a little less.”
What seems to be going on is that the stadium task force, in response to gripes from the NFL about that game-day taxes should get rebated to team owners, offered to do so if the league would make up the difference with a lump sum cash contribution, and the league didn’t outright say no, not yet, anyway. All of which is absolutely insane to put into legislation — normally it’s reach an agreement on a proposal first, then vote on it, not the other way around. But with the NFL setting its deadline of the end of the month for cities to put up stadium plans or shut up, apparently everyone has decided that insane is the way to go.