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St. Louis County taxpayers no longer on hook for planned Rams stadium

St. Louis County reportedly is no longer expected to help pay for a proposed $985-million stadium for the Rams

The plan to pay for a $985-million stadium to keep the Rams in St. Louis may have just gotten a little bit more wobbly.

The biggest local government in the river city will not be part of any public financing for a new stadium, at least for now, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday. Aides to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who’s spearheading the project, told the top official in St. Louis County that the county’s “participation would not be necessary in the stadium deal,” the newspaper reported.

It’s unclear exactly what that means for the stadium plan; Nixon and his stadium team have said little about precisely how they plan to raise the $400 million or more in state and local funds that they expect to contribute to the project. But it appears they’ll be going forward without any tax money from the approximately 1 million residents of St. Louis County, a large suburban area that rings the city of St. Louis.

The move could actually smooth the stadium’s path. St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has said he wouldn’t support public spending without a public vote, and taking the county out of the funding mix could avoid a messy, time-consuming election. In the fast-paced merry-go-round of NFL relocation, that matters, said Jim Shrewsbury, chairman of the Edward Jones Dome Authority, which oversees the Rams’ current stadium.

“The quicker this is done, the better chance we have of prevailing in this matter,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “If there is some doubt as to whether or not the county can participate, it’s better to move without them.”

But it does mean someone else will likely have to contribute more, and that has some supporters worried.

"It could derail the deal, and that would create a huge problem for us," Jeff Aboussie, a top official with the St. Louis Building and Trades Council, told the Post-Dispatch.

Right now, St. Louis County pitches in $6 million per year -- along with $6 million from the city of St. Louis and $12 million from the state of Missouri -- to pay off bonds on the Rams’ current home, the Edward Jones Dome. One plan that has been floated in St. Louis would involve extending those bonds, and their current annual payments, to raise about $350 million for a new stadium. Stenger told the Post-Dispatch that he’s fine with continuing payments on the Edward Jones Dome until those bonds are retired in 2021, but that any new debt should get a public vote.

That’s a sentiment popular in some corners of the state capital of Jefferson City as well, where the Missouri Senate recently passed a bill that would block Nixon from extending state bonds for a stadium without a legislative vote. That matter is now before the Missouri House of Representatives.

Nixon and his stadium team lately have said little about how they actually plan to pay for a new stadium, declining recent interview requests from The Times. In a statement Tuesday, stadium task force co-chairman Dave Peacock said his team continues to study “numerous financing proposals.”

“Just as the stadium design has evolved over the past several months and will continue to progress, so too will the process to determine the appropriate financing to bring this project to life,” he said in a statement.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

10:32 a.m.: This article has been updated throughout with additional details and background.

This article was originally published at 6:39 a.m.

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