Missouri gov says if it would mean public vote on Rams stadium, we don’t need county’s stinking money

It’s not quite building atop the site of ancient Indian burial mounds, but it’s still another sign that the St. Louis plan for a new Rams stadium isn’t going well: Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has told St. Louis County officials that he doesn’t want the county involved in the stadium financing plan, because the county would require a public vote and then it might lose, duh.

That would solve one problem, but create another, by blowing open a $6 million a year (roughly enough to pay off $100 million in construction costs) hole in Nixon’s proposed stadium budget, which already has enough holes as it is. Jones Dome chair Jim Shrewsbury, a Nixon appointee, painted this move as a way to convince the NFL that Missouri is serious about getting a stadium passed quickly, but the NFL cares about who’s going to pay for stadiums (preferably not them), not just whether they can proceed without public votes, so this looks like out of a frying pan and into the fire. It’s starting to seem more likely that Stan Kroenke might actually pull the trigger on an L.A. move, though with a $1.86 billion price tag, you have to think that at least part of him is hoping that Nixon finds enough spare change so that he doesn’t have to.

Proposed St. Louis stadium for Rams is on site of sacred Indian burial mounds (no, really)

What does the St. Louis Rams stadium demand saga need, now that it’s already been through an arbitrator ruling that Rams owner Stan Kroenke could break his lease thanks to the city’s terrible contract lawyers, Kroenke refusing to talk to the governor’s stadium tax force when they call, proposals to spend more than $400 million in state money without explaining where it would come from, and controversies over tearing down historic warehouses to make way for a new stadium? How about, I dunno, the new stadium being built atop an ancient Indian burial mound? Can we get that?

Big Mound, which was 319 feet long, 158 feet wide and 34 feet high, was at the northern end of the St. Louis formation.

Most of the rest of the mounds were in the footprint of the proposed football stadium.

Yep, the Rams stadium mess officially now has everything. Not that this will likely be a major factor given that St. Louis demolished its mounds in the 19th century (the ones across the river are still there), but you’ve still got to appreciate St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan’s suggestion that the city should just reconstruct the mounds instead as a tourist attraction, since “it would be a lot cheaper to rebuild the mounds than to build a stadium. Plus, the owners could never threaten to take the team away. The owners died centuries ago.”

 

Goodell on new St. Louis stadium for Rams: Sounds good, now hurry up about it already

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken on the subject of a new Rams stadium in St. Louis! He has said nice things:

“They have a great site. They have a site that I think is important for St. Louis to redevelop. I think it’s a perfect stadium site, as the governor told me. And I think they’re working towards making it a reality.

“And that’s a positive. The efforts that are going on there are very positive.”

And he has said vaguely threatening things:

Goodell said Wednesday that the league has had discussions on the committee level about moving up the timetable for relocation following the 2015 season.

“We’ve had some discussions within our (Los Angeles opportunity) committee,” Goodell said. “Whether that time frame — if there was a relocation — whether that’s the appropriate time frame to do so. There’s a lot to do when you relocate a franchise.”

All of this, of course, is part of the job description of a commissioner, who is expected to play both good cop and bad cop for team owners’ stadium demands. The only real news here, such as it is, seems to be that the NFL might consider moving up the decision time for announcing that a team or teams will or won’t move to L.A. for 2016. Also, that the league is apparently calling the group of owners in charge of this the “Los Angeles opportunity committee,” which you have to hope at least makes them feel better about their job.

NFL finally officially admits that, yes, some teams are threatening to move to L.A.

Don’t look now, but NFL VP for Stadium Extortion Eric Grubman has actually said the R-word with regard to the St. Louis Rams:

A National Football League executive briefed team owners Monday, for the first time as a group, on competing stadium proposals that could send the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, including key steps “between now and any eventual relocation.”…

“This is the first time with membership that we’ve been able to be relatively open and transparent as to what was going on,” Grubman said after he presented at the NFL’s annual owners meeting at the historic Arizona Biltmore resort in Phoenix.

Outstanding! So now for NFL owners who are unable to read the papers, Grubman has spelled out that it’s Rams owner Stan Kroenke who’s threatening to go to Inglewood, and San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis who are threatening to go to Carson.

What the rest of us would no doubt hope the NFL would be more “open and transparent” about is whether these planned L.A.-area stadiums are serious or just bluffs, or serious bluffs intended to shake loose stadium deals from their hometowns but which they’re willing to go through with, maybe, if left with no better alternatives. And Grubman at least hinted at number three, sorta kinda maybe in part:

Grubman emphasized that home markets would have a chance to pitch their own proposals before a decision is made to move any team to Los Angeles.

“The last thing I’d want is for a relocation proposal to come forward, and a home market to say, ‘Wait. You told us we had another few months,’” Grubman said. “I don’t want to do that.”

For all of these owners, there are two major hurdles to clear if they really want to move: finding the money to build new stadiums in L.A. without losing their shirts, and getting approval from the NFL’s other owners to do so. Both are going to be difficult, in different ways: Even in a big market like L.A., coming up with enough revenue to pay off close to $2 billion in stadium debt is a tough nut, and getting 24 of 32 NFL owners to agree on anything, especially when you know that the teams you’d be shutting out of moving to L.A. in your stead will vote no, takes a lot of tricky campaigning. With the next window for relocations coming up next winter, expect most of this year to be taken up with behind-the-scenes work lobbying for support among NFL owners, while waiting to see what San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis propose as alternatives. There is much, much haggling yet to be done, in other words, so it’s pointless even to read tea leaves now.

Chargers, Raiders, Rams still working on stadiums everywhere, still anybody’s guess who ends up where

What’s going on the past few days in the NFL-to-Los-Angeles competition, you ask? (Strange thing to ask first thing on a Monday morning, but hey, who am I to judge?) Man, what isn’t going on?

  • The proposed Carson stadium for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders has gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot, which means it’s also gathered enough signatures for the Carson city council to just pass it without it ever getting to the ballot. No word yet from the council on what its plans are.
  • St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is set to bring “schematic plans for the world’s most interactive and integrated football stadium” in Inglewood to the NFL owners meetings this week, which include a clear plastic roof that covers not just the stadium but a performance space and plaza next door. (I can’t figure out how to link directly to the L.A. Times’ slideshow, but click through here and scroll down for your vaportecture fix.)
  • L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, standing in the back and waving his arms wildly for attention, says he still wants to build a stadium next to the L.A. Convention Center, even if nobody else does: “We have a good stadium deal downtown if anybody wants to take us up on it.”
  • The chair of the advisory group tasked with figuring out how to build a new Chargers stadium in San Diego says it will cost between $700 million and $1.5 billion and “rely on a mix of revenue streams,” as reported by San Diego TV station XETV. That sure narrows it down.
  • The Oakland city council voted to add Alameda County to its negotiations over the going-nowhere-fast Coliseum City project, then the council president promptly put it in terms of the creepiest metaphor ever: “Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney said the agreement with [Coliseum City’s Floyd] Kephart was in its early stages — like a new relationship. At this point there hasn’t even been a first kiss, McElhaney said. The city and county coming together is a crucial step, she said, like two parents supporting a child. ‘We’ve been separated for awhile, but we agree the baby is valuable,’ she said.” Cue the obvious sound clip.

In other words, still nobody knows nothing, but everyone is working really hard at everything that doesn’t involve actual money being raised or approvals being gotten. Tune in next week for more non-news!

L.A. labor group trying to force vote on Inglewood stadium, unless they get jobs pledge, then whatever

AEG may have given up its battle against St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s planned Inglewood stadium, but another foe has emerged: the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which is gathering signatures to try to force a public vote on the project:

The Federation’s main concern, executive secretary Rusty Hicks said, is that the development agreement that Inglewood’s City Council unanimously approved Feb. 24 doesn’t mandate well-paying, long-term jobs during and after construction of the $1.86 billion stadium and the entertainment and retail complex around it.

If the labor group can get 6,000 signatures by next Wednesday, it can force a public vote, overruling the city council decision to forgo a public vote by getting a public vote on the ballot and then voting to approve it without a public vote. (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: California is weird.) Though if the only holdup is an agreement to promise some union jobs, that seems like a small price for Kroenke to pay to make the petition drive go away — and indeed, Inglewood Mayor James Butts told the L.A. Times that he’s “certain within the next five to seven days everything will be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.” Now somebody just needs to inform L.A. Curbed’s headline writers.

Missouri development agency claims state would profit on Rams stadium because NFL players pay income taxes

That Missouri state hearing to talk about the economic benefits of a St. Louis Rams stadium but not whether Missouri should build a St. Louis Rams stadium happened yesterday, and the Missouri Department of Economic Development held up its end by bringing along a report claiming to show that the state would earn a net $295 million in added tax revenue over 30 years:

The biggest chunk of the money would come from personal income taxes paid by football players, staff and coaches. They will pump an estimated $9.6 million into state coffers this year, an amount that is projected to grow by at least 3 percent a year and probably, “significantly” more.

That’s $9.6 million in just state income taxes, over and above what the state gets now? The top tax bracket in Missouri is 6%, so Rams players and staff would need to be paid an extra $160 million to make that work out, this for a team whose entire player payroll currently is only $151 million. Also, as committee chair Jay Barnes pointed out, Rams state income tax payments have actually been going down the last two years, to a total of $17.8 million in 2014.

There are other problems with the report (which doesn’t appear to be publicly available yet), including that it estimates only $12 million a year in state debt payments, when currently subsidy plans would require at least double that; and that it doesn’t appear to have calculated the negative economic impact of saddling Missourians with either $24 million a year in new taxes or in lessened spending on other projects. Mostly, then, it tells us that Gov. Jay Nixon looks to be preparing to justify spending money on an NFL stadium by going down the path of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Athletes make a lot of money and keep making more money so let’s make sure they stick around by taking all the income tax they pay and giving it back to their employers and then everyone will win! It makes total sense, so long as you don’t think about it too much.

Missouri to hold Rams stadium impact hearing, not conclude anything from it

The Missouri House Government Oversight and Accountability is holding a hearing today at noon on the economic impact of a proposed St. Louis Rams stadium, but not on whether a new stadium would be a good idea. As committee chair Jay Barnes wrote in his weekly newsletter last week:, R-Jefferson City. House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, asked Barnes to analyze the stadium’s costs and benefits.

In his weekly newsletter, Barnes called his committee’s work “a limited inquiry that will not reach whether government should finance a new stadium. Just because something may profit the government does not mean it should be done.” Yeah, I don’t get it either.

You may not watch the hearing online, because the Missouri legislature apparently does not do such things for committee meetings. (Its video archives page consists almost entirely of Microsoft Word files.) In fact, its website warns that “Notice of the intent to audio or video record all or any portion of a committee proceeding must be given to the Chairman of each committee in advance of the hearing,” so don’t even think of having a friend sneak in there with a tape recorder, either. If anything important happens, just trust that the Missouri legislature will tell you.

Goldman Sachs has secret plan to control NFL team relocations, or something

Vampire squid sighting! Sharp-eyed readers might already have noticed that when the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders announced their Carson stadium plan, neither team’s execs actually took the stage, but a guy from Goldman Sachs did. Now, the Voice of San Diego theorizes that the firm is even more intimately involved in the plan to move the Chargers north:

SportsBusiness Journal’s Daniel Kaplan, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that Goldman Sachs will finance the Chargers’ costs of moving to L.A. by covering “any operating losses suffered by the team in the first few years in that city as well as costs for any renovations needed in a temporary venue.” If they relocate, the Chargers are expected to play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or the Rose Bowl while a new L.A.-area stadium is under construction…

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs managing director Greg Carey is advising Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s task force on building a publicly funded stadium to keep the Rams from moving to Los Angeles. The St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority hired Goldman two years ago to find ways to keep the Rams, or at least NFL football, in St. Louis.

The Voice’s Beau Lynott puts all this together to suggest that since Goldman would make more money on a Carson stadium than a San Diego one (since it would cost more and require more private lending), and keeping the Rams in St. Louis would mean they’d get to help finance two stadiums instead of one, the firm is secretly trying to maneuver that scenario into happening. Or not secretly, maybe, but … fiendishly? Yeah, “fiendishly” sounds about right, even for things that Goldman Sachs just does as a matter of everyday business, because come on, people, Goldman Sachs.

Meanwhile, the Carson stadium backers launched a ballot initiative on Wednesday, which means they’re now looking at an Inglewood scenario: Either hold a public vote this summer, or have the city council just vote it in once the ballot signatures are collected, thus avoiding both the normal environmental review and an actual vote. Three guesses which one the Chargers would like to see.

I’m still having a really hard time finding the exact language of the Carson proposal or figuring out what’s being proposed — an attorney for the project promised that “not one penny [of city money] will go into the project,” but everybody says that. If anyone does manage to track it down, can you throw a link into comments? Thanks!

AEG issues another report on how Inglewood stadium would be a menace to planes

Apparently AEG’s plan to block Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium plan is to pay anyone in sight to issue reports about how it’s too near the airport. Following on last week’s report claiming that it would be a terrorist missile pad, AEG has now commissioned a former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board to show that planes could crash into it, or fly real low over it and scare people, or something:

According to the [Mark] Rosenker report, approaching aircraft could be as little as 300 feet above the Inglewood stadium, potentially dangerously close for the safety of the plane as well as fans in the stadium.

“The (safety) margins are not there,” Rosenker told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday. “You lose an engine. Something bad has happened for whatever reason, and you have got to come down quickly. This is not a place that you want to be having to dodge around to guarantee that you get in there safely and not collide with anything before you touch that touchdown zone.

“It’s a bad idea, just in general. … Why put something that could be a catastrophic result in a place, where if you put it anyplace else, you take all of those problems off the table?”

Now, I am not a former NTSB chair, but I am a Mets fan, which means that I’ve been overflown by hundreds if not thousands of planes while at games, both at Shea Stadium and at Citi Field, which was allowed to be built six years ago in the flight path of LaGuardia Airport without anyone raising any alarms. Also, FAA regulations do try to account for this, saying no buildings in a flight path within three miles of an airport can be more than 200 feet tall — the stadium would be about 150 feet tall, so what’s the problem, exactly?

(I could also point out that the only stadium ever to be hit by a plane wasn’t anywhere near a flight path.)

I guess Rosenker’s point, such as he has one beyond “Can I have my check now?”, is that if you’re going to have a football stadium, you might as well do it somewhere that’s not near an airport, just to be better safe than sorry. In which case, you know what’s nowhere near LAX? The Edward Jones Dome. I bet the Rams could keep playing there for years and nobody would crash into it.