St. Louis board casts initial vote to okay $477m Rams subsidy, doesn’t actually know what it voted on

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.

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15 comments on “St. Louis board casts initial vote to okay $477m Rams subsidy, doesn’t actually know what it voted on

  1. “The NFL and [Rams owner Stan] Kroenke don’t need this money, but they’re in a position to demand it.”

    But are they really? I mean the alternative is a couple of plans in LA, none of which makes any economic sense. There’s nothing really keeping St Louis from going Oakland on the NFL.

  2. If an elected official is voting for something and then complaining they don’t even know what they are voting for or feel extorted, they should resign from office.

  3. JC, they should resign. I managed to read the bill in a matter of minutes, it’s not difficult to get through or understand if you are an educated adult.

    These politicians are too afraid to take a stand and they aren’t willing to admit it to the public. This is only slightly better than Megan Green’s libelous temper-tantrum.

  4. The vast majority of politicians never read what they’re voting on. They rely on the analysis presented by staffers from within the government. How many politicians are CPA’s?
    Whatever the case, how this plays out will be entertaining. I still believe it won’t be enough to keep the Rams from moving to Los Angeles.

  5. pardell, your belief is based entirely on you being a LA rams fan. All of the facts, especially the Inglewood initiative, and 20 years of history point to Stan using LA as a pawn in his plan to extract as much money as possible from St. Louis.

  6. To the contrary, ben. Actually, I am a 49ers fan (in spite of what the York family has done to the franchise). To my knowledge, its only been within the past few years that Stan Kroenke had an eye on Los Angeles. Prior to that, it was Al Davis who threatened to sue the NFL if an expansion team were placed in Southern California. As for more recent times, the Chargers & Raiders came onto the scene with their own plans only after it was determined the Rams were seeking to return, and had taken due diligence measure to make that a reality. This being the case, its apparent that Spanos and Davis are using LA as leverage to receive their own stadium deals in their respective cities.

  7. Is the Chargers/Raiders using LA for leverage mutually exclusive to the Rams using LA for leverage? In fact is there any NFL franchise that hasn’t used LA for leverage.

    Heck several years ago the Bay Area news media picked up a story that the 49ers were thinking of moving to LA. Surely you didn’t forget that most improbable of scenarios?

  8. Scola, the Chargers and Raiders aren’t using LA for leverage because they know they aren’t getting anything from their home markets, there’s nothing to leverage. That’s why their Carson stadium initiative was written to make a stadium a reality.

    Stan’s Inglewood initiative makes a retail center with a Walmart a reality while ignoring the details required for a NFL stadium.

    Inglewood was always an obvious leverage ploy but again you have to read the initiatives. Sports reporters and almost everyone commenting either didn’t bother to read or aren’t capable of understanding the content.

  9. I don’t really think the Carson project is especially viable either. Further, while it does seem shaking down Oakland isn’t going to happen, at least not while Libby Schaaf is mayor, I’m not quite as convinced that San Diego won’t cave. It probably won’t while Kevin Faulconer is running for re-election in 2016 but after that all bets are off.

    It seems entirely plausible the goal is to shake down St Louis now, San Diego in a couple of years and hope after that they can ratchet up the pressure on Oakland.

  10. Of all the proposals involved in the stadium drama, Carson is the city with the least amount of resources. Also, wouldn’t Inglewood have to approve a Walmart for that location?

  11. pardell – Inglewood approved a Walmart and a retail center in the “stadium” initiative. The zoning, EIR, and all other requirements are cleared for Stan and he didn’t have to commit to a stadium. Stan’s initiative also gives HPLC the open ended tax rebates worth $100s of millions that will be paid with or without a stadium. Inglewood gave away so much on an existing signed and sealed development plan and they received nothing in return. It’s crazy.

    You have to read the full initiatives, the summaries don’t cover the details.

    Looks like mustard is playing ketchup on TNF.

  12. Did Inglewood approve the Walmart super store for that site or was it just in the planning stage? Unless you don’t recall your SoCal history, in 2004 the voters of Inglewood passed a referendum against building a Walmart in their city.

  13. Why would anyone in L.A. want to put down a mortgage on PSL’s to go and see any of these three teams? That’s the real question. If any of them actually move, there is nothing to suggest that their present owners would make any effort to improve these mediocre (Chargers) and godawful (Raiders, Rams) franchises. The on the field results would likely be the same. It’s basically a shell game, except the fans get no prizes.

  14. You still haven’t read the initiative, I gave you the link. Inglewood’s so called “stadium” initiative approved the building of a retail center and a 99,999 square foot Walmart. You have to read the initiative if you want to discuss the project.

  15. Ben, please knock off the comments on what you assume other people are thinking. You can criticize people’s opinions all you want, but personal attacks are not allowed.

    Anyway, I *have* now looked at the initiative, as well as done several searches of the content, and the only reference I can find to a Walmart-like big box store appears to say that it would require separate city approval:

    “The Retail Center shall not include the following: (a) membership warehouse stores; (b) liquidation retailers such as “99 Cent Only” stores and “$1 Only” stores; (c) drive-through fast food or; (d) stand-alone pads on which fast-food restaurants are located.; or (e) a large-format retail discount store of 100,000 square feet or more, or a retail discount store of less than 100,000 square feet that devotes more than ten percent (10%) of its sales floor to groceries, unless otherwise approved by City Council.”

    A store of under 80,000 square feet would be allowed, but that’d be small for a Walmart.

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