The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC) has rejected a proposal for an estimated $700 million in renovations to the Edward Jones Dome, home field of the Rams of the National Football League.
The CVC’s decision to reject the Rams’ proposal, announced in early June, follows the team’s rejection of a proposal by the CVC for $124 million in renovations.
The matter could go to arbitration. The CVC will be able to either accept or reject any plan the arbitrators select or create.
Whatever the outcome of the negotiations or arbitration, some local leaders are already mobilizing against further taxpayer subsidies for the Rams.
‘Not a Good Investment’
“Economic analysis of the more than five dozen publicly funded professional ballparks and stadiums nationally does not make the case for this being a good investment for taxpayers,” said State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford (D-St. Louis). “I believe the taxpayers of St. Louis City and County should have the right to a public hearing and a public vote on any appropriation of public dollars for professional sports projects.”
The CVC’s original proposal for $124 million in renovations would have split the costs almost equally between taxpayers and the team, with the public providing $60 million and the team providing the remaining $64 million. The proposal submitted by the Rams did not indicate how much the public would be expected to fund and how much, if any, the team would pay. The $700 million figure is an estimate provided by an independent consultant hired by the CVC, as the Rams proposal did not include a price tag.
‘Top Tier’ Commitment
The competing proposals were spurred by an ‘escape clause’ in the Rams lease with the CVC, which allows them to break the lease after 2015 if the stadium is not considered ‘top tier’ compared to other NFL stadiums. ‘Top tier’ refers to stadium features including luxury suites, pricey club seats, scoreboard, and other features.
The Edward Jones Dome was built entirely at taxpayer expense, with the costs split between the state (50 percent), county (25 percent) and city (25 percent). The original debt of $320 million is scheduled to be paid off in 2022, and is expected to have cost a total of $720 million over the 30-year term of the bonds. The City of St. Louis reports it still owes $38 million on the original debt, and will pay approximately $50 million between now and 2022 when the debt is finally paid off.
“In view of the almost daily media stories about local and state government being unable to fund legitimate taxpayer responsibilities, it would be absurd for the taxpayers to pile new debt on top of old debt,” said Fred Lindecke, spokesman for a local group called Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums. “Particularly to help a multi-billionaire pay for a new playground for his toy, the Rams.”