After significant delay, Missouri and Saint Louis City residents finally have a proposal on how much the public will be expected to pay for a new football stadium. And while it looks as if the city won’t be paying more in upfront costs for a stadium than they are now, the fine print shows this may be a worse deal than the notorious lease the city used to get the Rams in the first place.
Before diving into the numbers, it is important to note once again that the proposal before city leadership is not the end result of a negotiation with the Rams or Stan Kroenke. The Rams organization has remained completely silent on what, if anything, the city can do to keep the team in Saint Louis. The NFL, which could possibly block a move, has also failed to make firm commitments to the city. With the caveat that nothing is final, if the stadium funding plan goes through the city will likely be financially worse off than it is now, for the following reasons:
1. It will cost the city more than last time. In building the Dome, the city agreed to make $6 million a year in bond payments for 30 years. For the new stadium, Saint Louis will add remaining Dome debt to new stadium debt, to make payments that start at $4.5 million and escalate to $9 million over the course of 36 years. That does not include the millions that city residents have paid already through sub-municipal governmental bodies.
2. It has hidden, unaccounted-for costs. Stadiums cost millions of dollars every year to maintain and operate, little or none of which is covered by NFL teams. The current plan does not account for these costs, aside from proposing adding new taxing districts. But if the future stadium costs and Ram’s tax revenue is anything like it is now, those districts will be wholly unable to cover costs. And speaking of revenue…
3. It means less tax revenue than before. The city plans to give the vast majority of taxes (sales and otherwise) collected at the new stadium, which the city would normally collect, back to the Rams. Saint Louis City only collects about $4.2 million in total from the Rams right now, and this plan would likely mean the city gets even less in the future.
4. It diverts needed money from the Dome. For the Edward Jones Dome to operate into the future, it reportedly needs about $100 million in capital improvements and continued maintenance. The revenue stream that currently funds the Dome would be diverted to pay for a new stadium, with nothing to take its place.
The bottom line for the city is that with this deal, to which the Rams have not agreed, the city is likely to pay more and earn less than it has for the last 20 years. Worse yet, maintenance for the new stadium and on the Dome are not accounted for, virtually guaranteeing that someone (not the Rams) will need to pay more later on. Is football so important to Saint Louis residents that they would mortgage their city’s future to give millions of dollars to an uninterested billionaire?
Unfortunately, the government sued itself to prevent a public vote, so we have no way of knowing the answer to that question.