If the Riverfront Stadium Plan Had Two Wheels, It’d Be a Bicycle
Recently, Dave Peacock, the head of Missouri’s stadium task force, spoke at a Commercial Real Estate Women of St. Louis breakfast. He discussed changes to how a riverfront stadium would be publicly funded. He also talked about how a new stadium could not only keep the Rams, but also transform the North Riverfront.
Originally, the plan was for the state, the city, and the county to extend bonds meant for the Edward Jones Dome to raise about $350 million to fund a new stadium, with an additional $50 million in state tax credits making up the rest of the public support. This changed when Saint Louis County, which was threatening a public vote on the issue, was dropped from the funding plan. Peacock confirmed that with the county out it will be left to taxpayers statewide to pick up the $100 million bill—a bill unlikely to be offset by any economic activity generated by the team.
In a sense, the new funding plan is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic; large public subsidies for sports stadiums do not make economic sense regardless of the city/state/county funding ratio. The growing list of contingencies—none of which local governments control—that Peacock’s plan relies on for everything from stadium funding to economic development is getting more preposterous. These include:
- Getting a team owner and the NFL to cover $450 million in costs for a new stadium. No team owner, especially the Rams’ owner, has expressed any inclination to do this.
- As things stand, a plan to fund a new stadium needs to go to a public vote in the city. Residents might vote no.
- Getting an MLS soccer team in Saint Louis.
- After getting an MLS soccer team, getting (and funding) a soccer hall of fame.
- Funding an entertainment center at the Union Electric Light and Power Company building.
- And finally, because Peacock thinks the Rams owner is committed to relocating to L.A., getting Kroenke to sell the Rams to another owner who will keep the team in Saint Louis.
You got all that? If city residents and the state government agree, against the advice of economists, to publicly fund a new stadium, and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority (RSA) uses eminent domain to bulldoze the North Riverfront, we can then hope the NFL will force/convince Kroenke to sell the Rams to an owner who, along with the NFL, may decide to fund half the costs of a new stadium, which in turn might just convince an MLS team to move to Saint Louis, which then might prompt the MLS (no doubt with some tax dollars) to locate their hall of fame at a new entertainment complex (funded by…someone) at the old power building. That’s some plan.