Keep an eye on the St. Louis stadium deal

St. Louis officials have a plan to build a $1 billion stadium along the Mississippi River.
St. Louis officials have a plan to build a $1 billion stadium along the Mississippi River. HOK/360 Architecture

State funds for the Truman Complex and Bartle Hall will be tucked back in Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed budget after most of the usual $5 million annual allocation was inexplicably left out.

That’s only appropriate, given past promises by Missouri officials and past actions by local voters.

Jackson Countians in 2006 approved a three-eighths-cent sales tax to raise $500 million to upgrade Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. The Chiefs and Royals pledged $100 million. The state said it would continue the longtime practice of sending $3 million a year for sports complex expenses.

In addition, the state has allocated $2 million annually toward expenses at Bartle Hall, which Kansas City taxpayers expanded 20 years ago.

Think of it this way: The state’s $5 million is its investment in two stadiums and a convention center that bring in millions of dollars in revenues annually for Missouri and local governments.

The “missing” money in Nixon’s budget caught the attention of Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders and others in this area because of what’s happening in St. Louis.

Many officials there hope Nixon and the General Assembly will be open to offering a large package of financial incentives to help build a $1 billion riverfront stadium for a National Football League team. It’s all part of the suddenly desperate bid to keep the St. Louis Rams in town, even though owner Stan Kroenke is involved in a stadium-building effort near Los Angeles.

However, any public funding deal worked out with St. Louis needs to be fair to Kansas City.

The NFL team — whether it’s the Rams or another one — needs to chip in significant support. The people of St. Louis also should have to approve a subsidy for the project.

The state likely will chip in some state tax credits, as it did for the Truman Sports Complex, and an annual appropriation along the lines of the $12 million a year it uses to help maintain the Edward Jones Dome.

The St. Louis project has a long way to go toward final approval. But Kansas City officials should keep close tabs on it to make sure taxpayers here and their state tax dollars don’t become part of an overly generous deal to keep the NFL in St. Louis.