Frenzied efforts are underway to build a new $1 billion stadium in St. Louis as the beleaguered city tries to hang on to its professional football team. Kansas City area taxpayers have a stake in what happens on the other side of the state.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, St. Louis civic officials and many sports fans hope the new riverfront facility could force owner Stan Kroenke to keep his Rams in town or help attract another National Football League team. The Rams, under their lease, can leave the Edward Jones Dome in downtown St. Louis after the current season. Kroenke already has unveiled plans to build a new stadium in Los Angeles, but the NFL is not expected to announce until 2016 what it wants to do regarding a team in that city.
Yes, it’s complicated.
Against that backdrop, the proposal coming out of St. Louis and backed so far by Nixon raises a few concerns.
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Missourians already pay about $12 million a year for the debt and some upkeep of the Jones Dome. Meanwhile, Kansas City gets about $3 million a year from the state to help pay the bills for the Truman Sports Complex.
Local officials have squawked for years about that imbalance in Missouri funding. The future doesn’t get much better under a potential plan that could help pay for the new stadium in St. Louis. It could require the state debt and annual payment of around $12 million to be extended for up to 30 more years.
Given the amount of money involved, it makes sense for the General Assembly to play a role in deciding whether to continue that level of funding for such a long time.
Unfortunately, supporters of the St. Louis stadium and Nixon have not agreed to seek that approval. In fact, Nixon has said he has the authority to extend the bonds.
In response, legislators such as Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph and Rep. Jay Barnes of Jefferson City have said they will oppose efforts to appropriate state money for bonds endorsed by Nixon — unless the General Assembly also approves funds for the stadium.
The other concern regarding the St. Louis project is that, so far, no public election is scheduled there to approve spending more local funds. In fact, a judge has said a city ordinance requiring a public vote to use an existing hotel-motel tax for additional stadium funding is invalid.
Opponents of the stadium say this court decision was orchestrated by some city and civic officials who don’t want voters to weigh in on the stadium for fear that the issue would be defeated.
More months of uncertainty are ahead. The best resolution should include decisions by St. Louis area voters and the legislature to indicate they are willing to pay for the public’s portion of a new stadium.