Episode IV: A New Dome (They Might As Well)?
The St. Louis Rams’ counter-offer to the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC) has just been released. You can read the proposal yourself, but the key take-away is that the estimated price for this upgrade is in the range of $500 million to $750 million, with $700 million as the more specific estimate. The breakdown between private and public money is unknown, but presumably the public portion will be substantial. Also, the plan would involve making the Dome unfit for conventions for two years, due to renovation work. Needless to say, operators of hotels and restaurants in Saint Louis would not be thrilled with such an arrangement in the short term.
Before even discussing the merits of such a proposal, it is imperative to ask, where would the city, county, and state find the money to pay for this, even if they wanted to? The state had enough trouble balancing the budget for its current obligations. Saint Louis City is looking to reduce the size of the police force and Saint Louis County is laying off workers to balance its budget.
Also, would the public be better off with an investment of this sort? I already pointed out the conclusions of a St. Louis Federal Reserve study showing that the impact of public investments into sports stadiums was negligible, or in the case of Saint Louis, negative. In a book written by Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist, “Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums,” the authors conclude: “the economic case for publicly financed stadiums cannot credibly rest on the benefits to local business, as measured by jobs, income, and investment.”
If the Rams want a first-tier stadium, they should be free to build one with private funds, like the Carolina Panthers did. However, if they want the taxpayers to pay for most of it . . . then that is a problem. It is time to choose between what the city, county, and state need and what they would like to have.