St. Louis Sacks Taxpayers with Big Sports Stadium Bill

Published July 27, 2015

More than $5 million in taxpayer money has already been spent on the preliminary planning stages of constructing a replacement National Football League (NFL) stadium for the St. Louis Rams.

The team’s owners have threatened to leave St. Louis and move the team to Los Angeles, California if the city does not spend $1 billion in taxpayer funds to completely replace the Edward Jones Dome, which received taxpayer-funded renovations and upgrades in 2010.

‘Yet More Tax Revenue’

Joseph Miller, a policy analyst for the Show-Me Institute, says Missouri taxpayers are still paying for the Rams’ current stadium, and they’re nowhere near recouping their investment.

“The state, St. Louis, and St. Louis County pay a combined $24 million a year on stadium bond payments, which have not yet been completed,” Miller said. “Furthermore, these entities are responsible for regular upkeep of the stadium, which in the case of the city requires yet more tax revenue.”

Luxury Goods

Miller says subsidizing construction for the Rams, a team whose last winning NFL season was in 2003, is not a good investment of taxpayer money.

“Most St. Louis residents cannot afford to attend, much less regularly attend, a pro football game,” Miller said. “A cost index for a family of four going to a Rams game was about $427, with amenities. It is a luxury good for those who can afford it, and certainly not a public good that the city needs to spend money on.”  

‘Reverse Robin Hood’

Dennis Coates, an economics professor at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, says although team owners often threaten to relocate during stadium subsidy negotiations, they rarely carry out their threats.

“The people of Minnesota know all too well how this threat has played out,” Coates said. “The owner of the Vikings made a great show of going to Los Angeles. He checked out possible stadium venues, [met] with various and sundry Los Angeles movers-and-shakers interested in attracting a team [, and ended up staying in Minnesota.]”

Coates says stadium subsidies transfer taxpayers’ money to team owners and professional athletes, calling it a “reverse Robin Hood effect.”

“Note that owners have seen franchise values rise dramatically, as have player salaries,” Coates said. “Even a minimum-salary player makes a good deal more than the average income for a year, so one could argue that part of the ‘reverse Robin Hood’ is actually from relatively poor fans to relatively highly paid players and extremely wealthy owners.”

Michael Bates ([email protected]) writes from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Internet Info

Joseph Bast, “Sports Stadium Madness: Why It Started, How to Stop It,” The Heartland Institute: