San Diego and St. Louis may have just won stadium vaportecture porn

The cities of San Diego and St. Louis released new stadium promo videos yesterday, and … I’m sorry, I already boggled at these once for Vice Sports, you’ll just have to go read my remarks there.

Or if you just want to boggle on your own, the videos are linked below. In fact, let’s make it a game: How many ridiculous things can you spot in the videos before checking my list? No peeking!

St. Louis mayor brags that Rams would still pay one-third of their tax bill under new stadium plan, yay?

The actual language of the legislation to have St. Louis taxpayers provide Rams owner Stan Kroenke with $145 million in tax money toward a new stadium has finally been written, and re-written, and submitted to the city’s board of aldermen, and it now looks like this:

  • Instead of directing $6 million a year in hotel-tax receipts to the new Rams stadium (taxes that are currently going to pay off the old Rams stadium, and which would be extended another few decades under the new plan), the payments would start at $4.5 million a year and then eventually ramp up to $9 million a year, “to better match an expected rise in tax dollars,” according to Slay staffers paraphrased in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That’s going to be the same amount in present value, but pushes off some of the cost to future years when, presumably, the people voting on it are less likely to still be in office (or even alive).
  • The Rube Goldberg scheme of having Kroenke let the city use naming-rights money to pay for part of its stadium share and then get repaid with kicked-back income and sales taxes wouldn’t use up all of the city’s income and sales taxes from the stadium — just 64 percent of it. The other 36 percent the city would get to keep, because there would be enough left over after paying Kroenke that … come to think of it, how do they know what will be left over after paying Kroenke? NFL income and sales figure generally go up, sure, but if they don’t, presumably the city would have to give up a bigger share, right? Anyone think to ask this?

Anyway, all this number-shuffling doesn’t change the cost to St. Louis taxpayers: It’s still $145 million in construction costs to be paid off, regardless of when the payments are made or what change is left over after making them. The board of aldermen is meeting today to discuss the plan, after which we, and Slay, will presumably get to hear whether his sleight of hand worked to make anyone any happier.

NFL VP meets with Rams fans, insists their opinions count, but only if backed by public cash

The official NFL relocation guidelines are a weird bundle of contradictions: They exist only so that the league and its owners can threaten to move teams from city to city in search of a better deal, but they also have to give lip service to the notion that the NFL cares, really cares about keeping teams in their current homes. Unless there’s, you know, a better deal.

So you get NFL VP Eric Grubman, whose main job is to fly around the country and threaten cities that their teams will be gone if they don’t cough up the dough, going on a listening tour of St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland to hear fans’ concerns. And sure enough, somebody asked him about the seeming contradiction:

Grubman bristled slightly when it was suggested that what took place Tuesday was a dog-and-pony show that won’t have any weight on NFL team owners when it’s time to vote on relocation to Los Angeles.

“I can’t guarantee [skeptics] what weight it’s going to have,” Grubman said. “But I can guarantee people that I’m not coming to a dog-and-pony show.”

What else might carry more weight? Why, I’m glad you asked:

Grubman says the NFL needs to see three things when it comes to the stadium plan in St. Louis.

“The first is there has to be a specific plan,” he said. “The second is it has to be actionable. And the third is it has to be attractive to a team.”

Eric Grubman cares about your feelings, NFL fans. He really cares. Just not as much as he does about money, because that’s his job, after all.

St. Louis pol says Rams stadium too pricey for city taxpayers, wants other taxpayers on hook instead

On Friday, you will recall, it was revealed that St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is proposing to make up for using naming-rights money to pay for the public share of a Rams stadium — money that team owner Stan Kroenke insists should be his — by kicking back city taxes on spending at NFL games to the team. How is that going over with city officials who had specifically complained about the city “game day” tax kickback when it was first proposed as stadium funding, without the intermediate step? As you might expect, not well at all:

“The city cannot agree to fund the $150 million proposed by the stadium task force without extending itself well above the current $6 million commitment,” [city comptroller Darlene] Green said in her statement.

“St. Louis city should not be asked to shoulder the burden of the funding gap that was created when St. Louis County was given a pass for its share in building a new stadium,” she continued. “When analyzing the risks and benefits, I reiterate that all funding partners should share equally in bridging the funding gap and minimize the burden to city taxpayers.”

Green is only one vote (on the three-person Board of Estimate, not the Board of Aldermen — apparently St. Louis got around those one-person-one-vote problems), but as the main public spokesperson for the elected-official opposition, it’s worth noting what she says. And doesn’t say: Note that she only wants other “funding partners” (presumably the county) to cover a bigger share of the stadium, not necessarily Kroenke. That’s in line with her previous statement that maybe a statewide sports authority should be created to lavish public dollars on not just the Rams, but other local teams as well.

In other words, it sounds like we’re well on our way to the “How should the public pay for it?” stage of the debate, rather than “Should the public pay for it?” or even “Do we really need one in the first place?” That’s somewhat understandable given that Kroenke is playing hardball with his L.A. move threat: The general assumption is that unless his subsidy demands are met by some public entity, he’ll take his team and leave, though there’s no certainty that 1) this would be approved by other NFL owners, and 2) building his own nearly $2 billion stadium Inglewood would really be more lucrative than even a lesser offer of public money in St. Louis. Missouri officials are bidding against themselves, in other words, which we shouldn’t be surprised at, since they’ve proven so good at doing so before.

Rams stadium bill still uses hated game day taxes for city share, NFL says “get your own money, that’s ours”

Okay, there was one piece of news this weekend involving NFL teams threatening to move to L.A. that wasn’t just blowing leverage smoke: The details of the St. Louis Rams stadium bill were revealed on Friday. Here’s what we know:

  • The city would redirect $6 million a year worth of hotel taxes that are currently being used to pay off the Edward Jones Dome, as has been part of the plan all along. The dome debt would be refinanced, meaning it wouldn’t be paid off until much later, and the hotel tax surcharge would be extended well past its original sunset date.
  • To replace the additional “city event day taxes” that everyone hated — which itself would be replacing money that the county balked at putting in — there would be this Rube Goldberg device: The state authority that owns the Jones Dome would put in $75 million by taking it from the stadium’s recently announced naming rights deal — but since that’s money that Rams owner Stan Kroenke wants to use to pay off his own share of the stadium costs, the city would then reimburse Kroenke with … kicked-back game day tax money! Betcha didn’t expect that surprise twist, huh?
  • The Rams ownership state-run stadium authority [EDIT: Sorry, misread a reference] would cover all construction cost overruns, and the Rams would agree to a “binding and enforceable non-relocation agreement.”

All this would be enough to pay off about $145 million in stadium costs, which is a rather low number considering the annual payments. So either a large chunk of it would still be needed for existing dome costs, or the city is anticipating a lousy interest rate.

The controversial part of this, obviously, is keeping in the bit about kicking back taxes on anything sold at the stadium, which could come to a huge chunk of change — Mayor Francis Slay’s chief of staff, Mary Ellen Ponder, said the exact amount of the rebate is still being negotiated, so it’s hard to say how huge. Not only have members of the St. Louis board of aldermen have already been complaining about the price tag of tax kickbacks, but NFL VP for stadium grubbing Eric Grubman was out on the hustings on Friday, trying to move the goalposts on what exactly is a subsidy:

Generally, the NFL considers naming rights and even game-day taxes — on tickets, hot dogs, parking and beer, for instance — revenue that belongs to team owners, not to the public, said NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman.

Grubman said he had not seen the city bill. But if such money was bonded to pay for construction costs, he said, it should be credited toward the team’s portion, not the public’s.

“It’s an NFL asset in the way we view the world,” Grubman said. “Whether on tickets or parking, that tax wouldn’t exist but for the activities of the team.”

Laying claim to taxes on everything spent by your fans at the stadium is pretty ballsy — not only is this something that literally every other human who pays taxes on anything could claim (“Yes, Mr. IRS Auditor, but don’t you understand that my income tax bill wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t worked?”), but keep in mind the Rams would only be moving a few hundred feet, so it’s all tax money that’s currently being collected by the city and kept for public uses. But it’s even ballsier than that: Grubman is apparently trying to insist not only that tax kickbacks get used to pay stadium costs, but that they be used to pay the team owner’s share of stadium costs, and the city needs to come up with some other source for its own half of the tab.

This upset even Dave Peacock, the main booster of the Rams deal, who replied to Grubman’s remarks: “We’ve been discussing these taxes as a source of funding with the league since mid-July. I’m surprised they’re becoming an issue in late October.” Maybe this is just an example of Grubman playing bad cop, so that city officials are more willing to accept the game-day tax thing so long as it counts for their side of the ledger. (“Hooray, we get to give our tax revenues to the rich football team owner and count it as money we’re giving him rather than money he already has!”) On second thought, maybe this is a story about blowing leverage smoke after all.

Chargers, Rams, Raiders to file L.A. relocation papers; everybody act surprised!

San Diego Chargers stadium czar Mark Fabiani says the team plans to file relocation papers for Los Angeles with the NFL, as do the owners of the St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders:

“If everything is moving ahead, obviously we’re not going to be standing on the sidelines and watching everything go by,” Fabiani told Dan Sileo on the Mighty 1090 AM. “We’ve got to stay in the game to protect the franchise.”

I mean, of course they are: Filing relocation papers doesn’t commit anybody to actually moving to L.A., it just keeps your options open, or at least as open as the other NFL owners decide to allow them to be. Everything that’s been reported in every city in recent weeks about the L.A. relocation dance has been just a matter of creating leverage, and we can expect to see it continue as the next window for an NFL decision (roughly January-February) grows ever nearer, though the league still has the option to punt everything to 2017. I’d still put my money on that, frankly — there’s still a lot of shaking down of St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland yet to be done — but I don’t expect anything to get much clearer before the last minute. Until then, we have announcements like this to fill column inches.

St. Louis officials propose vote on Rams stadium subsidy, mayor gripes that democracy takes too long

And speaking of new proposals for public votes on stadium plans to keep NFL teams from moving to Los Angeles, St. Louis has got one of those, too!

Several St. Louis Aldermen are introducing a bill at Friday’s board meeting that would require a public vote before allowing the city to spend about $150 million on the $1 billion building.

The office of Mayor Francis Slay, however, warns that such a bill could kill plans to build the stadium.

Well, yes, of course it could? That’s the reason you vote on things, right? Is so that people have the option to vote them up, or down?

Okay, Slay’s actual complaint seems to be that a vote couldn’t take place until March, and he wants a vote on a Rams stadium next month, the better to wave in front of NFL owners’ noses before they meet this winter to consider which teams, if any, will move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season. He probably doesn’t need to rush: There’s little chance that the NFL would let Rams owner Stan Kroenke leave town just yet, not with St. Louis the most solid option for public stadium funding out of the three cities involved. (Not that that’s saying much, since Oakland and San Diego have been shamefully hesitant to throw money at the Raiders and Chargers.) It is a good pretext for opposing the board bill, though — democracy takes too long, we need to act now now now! — so facts, schmacts.

The bill currently has five sponsors out of 28 aldermen, so everyone panic and/or rejoice appropriately when and if it gets closer to 15.

Rams owner could force NFL to let him leave St. Louis by refusing new stadium, says crazy report

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora clearly has some good league sources (or some sources who want to feed him information or disinformation for their own reasons, as the case may be), but he must’ve been hepped up on goofballs when typing out yesterday’s article on St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s lease options:

St. Louis could, according to NFL regulations, present a stadium plan that makes it nearly impossible for Kroenke to move the Rams, but, given the nature of the team’s lease with the Edward Jones Dome, Kroenke could not have to play in any new facility.

He has the capacity to go year to year with the Edward Jones Dome through 2025, sources said, and thus, even if blocked from moving in 2016 and potentially losing out on the LA market — and no one knows what the ultimate outcome of relocation will be at this point in the process — he could still essentially bide his time in his current stadium and wait for other options to emerge (London?) rather than enter into a binding, long-term agreement with a new St. Louis stadium.

Um, what? If St. Louis indeed comes up with a lucrative new stadium offer (which they’re working on, and half a billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at) that convinces the NFL that it shouldn’t let the Rams move to L.A., then La Canfora speculates that Kroenke could refuse to accept it, because he wants to badly to move to L.A. — which he wouldn’t get to move to in this scenario anyway, but maybe could move to another city eventually, presumably if offered a lucrative stadium subsidy, like the one he’d be turning down in St. Louis to … I’m sorry, this plotline is way too convoluted to untangle. (There’s also a bit later on where La Canfora say that Kroenke could force the NFL to let him move — but not to L.A. — in order to open up St. Louis for a different team to move to. But really, let’s not go there.)

If there’s any takeaway from all this, it’s that it seems like NFL insiders are just as confused about what’s going to happen with the L.A. move gambit as the rest of us. Or that they’re having a tough time getting their story straight. Maybe Roger Goodell needs to hire a continuity supervisor.

St. Louis comptroller now fine with new taxes for Rams stadium, so long as they’re not her new taxes

St. Louis city comptroller Darlene Green wants to make clear some things about her opposition to the now-dead-apparently funding plan for a new St. Louis Rams stadium:

  • “I want to be part of the solution to saving the Rams. I want to be part of the solution for building a new stadium,” Green told KTVI-TV.
  • Green’s problem with Gov. Jay Nixon’s last plan was that it would not only saddle St. Louis with the $6 million a year in taxes currently going to pay off the 20-year-old Jones Dome, but with a roughly equal amount (give or take, depending on how you count present value) in kicked-back stadium sales and income taxes: “Now, I am understanding that this [version of the plan] is outdated. So they need to work harder to deliver on their promises to the taxpayers: no new taxes.”
  • The comptroller suggested instead creating a statewide sports authority to raise tourist tax money for improvements for all six of the state’s major-league teams: the Rams, Blues, Cardinals, and Kansas CIty Royals, Chiefs, and Sporting KC. “Those guys need to go after those tourist and visitor dollars. That’s a responsible way to fund major league sports these days. Think major league, stop thinking small.”
  • She’s only one of three votes on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (the other two are Mayor Francis Slay and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed), so even if the board of aldermen approves a stadium funding plan, it’s not up to her to decide.

Okay, so what appears to be going on here is two things: 1) Green is trying to draw a “no new taxes” line in the sand over that $6 million in Jones Dome money, though even that would really involve new taxes (or old taxes extended farther into the future, which is the same thing); and 2) Green isn’t opposed to spending tax money on stadiums, she just doesn’t want it to be her tax money. It’s the “tax the guy behind the tree” principle, and while it’s sort of reasonable for a comptroller whose main concern is her own city budget, it’s not the best way to run public policy.

In any event, it does seem like we’re headed from “Should we give the Rams $400-million-plus in public money?” territory into “How should we find $400-million-plus in public money to give the Rams?”, which is usually the first step toward some kind of horse-trading that results in approval. Not always, mind you — sometimes nobody can decide who’s going to be the guy behind the tree — but usually. The money that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has spent on buying up land in Inglewood looks like it’ll be worth every penny.

St. Louis council gripey about extra Rams costs, additional haggling expected

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s St. Louis Rams stadium proposal, whatever the hell it actually is, will head to the city’s Board of Aldermen as soon as there’s an actual bill to be discussed. And once it gets there, reports St. Louis Public Radio, it’s likely to face a not-entirely-friendly reception from members of the board’s Ways and Means Committee, which will hear the bill whenever there’s a bill to hear:

  • Ald. Antonio French has threatened to block any stadium legislation until Mayor Francis Slay first provides a “comprehensive plan” for reducing crime in the city.
  • Ald. Scott Ogilvie said: “You can’t keep saying ‘it’s essential to have a football team’ when it costs the city of St. Louis a substantial amount of tax revenue every year. The big question that we should be asking ourselves now or maybe should have asked ourselves a few years ago is it good public policy for the city of St. Louis to functionally own two football stadiums?”
  • On the other hand, committee chair (and certified public accountant) Steven Conway said, “You’ve got to remember: When we pass a bill like this, that job is guaranteed to employ city residents and minorities and women. A billion dollars? That’s $250 million in jobs for minorities and women and city residents – guaranteed minimum. That’s a hard thing to overcome.” (I guess they don’t teach opportunity cost in CPA school?)

None of these seems like it should be considered staunch opposition (or even “deep skepticism,” as SLPR put it), but it’s definitely going to be tough sledding for Nixon to get more than the $6 million a year in redirected Jones Dome payments that he originally proposed. Which may be why the added “event day tax” kickbacks are now off the table, seemingly. You think maybe they were only floated in the first place in order to make the dome money look reasonable by comparison? You’re a horrible, cynical person, that’s what you are.