St. Louis passes final piece of public financing for NFL stadium

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Saturday, December 19, 2015

ST. LOUIS -- The final piece of the public financing for St. Louis' NFL stadium proposal passed Friday, giving the city a proposal to give to the NFL before the league's Dec. 30 deadline.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen officially passed the measure to put about $150 million in city money toward the proposed $1 billion-plus stadium on the city's north riverfront.St. Louis mayor Francis Slay is expected to sign the bill on Monday.

Earlier this week, the board pushed the proposal forward via a vote that required a simple majority to move the plan to Friday's final decision. Friday's vote ended in a 17-10 majority in favor of the bill.

"Today's vote of approval represents a significant milestone in the effort to see our NFL stadium and riverfront renewal project come to life and, in doing so, keep the St. Louis Rams here in St. Louis," the St. Louis stadium task force, led by Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz, said in a statement. "We commend mayor Francis Slay, president Lewis Reed and the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen for their vision, leadership and commitment. That's what it takes to make a city everything it can and should be for its residents, businesses and visitors.

"St. Louis answered that call today. We now have more work to do to prepare our St. Louis stadium proposal for delivery ahead of the NFL's deadline of Dec. 30. We recognize that our proposal will require extensive review before it is considered for approval by the NFL. We are confident that it will be well received."

Alderman Sharon Tyus, who was one of the "no" votes, was vocal in her opposition directed at Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

"We're like at the strip club ... and the stripper is throwing the money back at us," Tyus said.

Although the board of aldermen clearly didn't waiver in its support between the earlier vote and Friday's, there were a couple of last-minute roadblocks that came from the league that could have complicated things.

Before Tuesday's aldermanic session, the task force led by Peacock and Blitz made some last-minute changes to the proposal. Included in those changes was the addition of an extra $100 million from the NFL, which would bring the league's commitment to $300 million to make the project work.

That proposal apparently drew NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's ire. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported that Goodell sent a firmly worded letter to Peacock informing him that the maximum amount of league money available for stadiums is generally $200 million in accordance with the league's G4 loan program.

While there has been one exception to that rule in the form of New York's MetLife Stadium, which received $300 million from the NFL, that stadium is home to two franchises, while the proposed St. Louis stadium would be for one.

The additional $100 million became a point of contention last week when league executive Eric Grubman went on "The Bernie Miklasz Show" on 101 ESPN Radio in St. Louis and said that St. Louis' plan would not be attractive to the Rams.

Grubman's reasoning for that was based on the fact that the St. Louis proposal contained about $400 million of public money but $100 million of that was to come in the form of an amusement tax that other St. Louis professional sports teams don't currently pay.

Despite those potential hiccups, nothing changed the board of aldermen's vote on Friday as the measure still passed with limited opposition.

The NFL set a Dec. 30 deadline to get final offers from the home markets of St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego in advance of the scheduled Jan. 12-13 owners meetings in Houston. St. Louis can now provide an actionable plan, though San Diego and Oakland are not expected to have one in time.

"Today's action by the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen is another step toward keeping the Rams in St. Louis, transforming the north riverfront with private investment, and creating jobs -- without raising taxes on Missourians," Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement. "I thank the board for moving forward to meet the NFL's Dec. 30 deadline and help secure St. Louis's position as a proud NFL city now and for years to come."

Even with the St. Louis proposal passing the public portions of the financing, the plan still requires a significant commitment in addition to the G4 loan from Kroenke for the stadium to be built. To this point, Kroenke has showed little interest in what St. Louis is offering.

The NFL hopes to have a vote on which teams out of the Rams, Raiders and Chargers will get to relocate to Los Angeles at those meetings.