St. Louis may or may not have a professional football team in 2016 and a sense of urgency to that reality has finally kicked in as the city makes a last-ditch effort to try to keep the Rams–at least on the surface.
New stadiums are always political minefields in Democrat-run cities because “subsidizing billionaires” is a popular rallying cry for activists who loathe the power of professional sports and demand any money deemed available is always funneled toward their latest pet project. Whatever it may be.
The fact that so many of our major cities are in trouble, be it economically or socially, should provide ample opportunity to discuss any issue that could advance quality of life but most politicians, no matter the affiliation, are power-hungry survivors concerned about what’s expedient for their future, not the generations that follow.
And that’s why you see so many cities lose professional sports teams only to fight tooth and nail to get one back in the ensuing years, often paying up to 10 times the original price tag while losing the history and tradition of the original bunch.
And St. Louis already did it once, losing the Cardinals to Arizona only to lure the Rams from Los Angeles in 1995.
Ironically the Rams current owner, Stan Kroenke, has his eyes set on returning the team to LA, and only after potentially playing their final home game at the outdated Edward Jones Dome, city aldermen (all democrats) finally agreed to kick in $150 million toward a new stadium by a vote of 17-10.
Some have called the new measure grandstanding to the low-information crowd which supports the idea of a major league city housing an NFL team but really doesn’t understand the business side of such maneuverings.
The passage is hinged on the caveat that the NFL antes up $300 million for the proposed stadium and the league’s policy is to chip in $200 million. To the politically educated that’s a poison pill designed for the “supporters’ to cloak themselves in one position publicly while working toward a completely different end game behind close doors.
In Kroenke’s mind, he’s already gone, but he needs 23 other owners to let him load the moving trucks and the size of St. Louis, the nation’s 21st largest television market, is something that is important to the league as a whole.
Some of those other owners could land of the side of the fence that St. Louis’ current offer is good enough to consider other avenues to make up for the missing funds and keep the city in the NFL business while letting the Chargers and Raiders have the Los Angeles market. After all, the Bay Area is already taken care of with the 49ers and San Diego is a lesser market than ST. Louis.
Remember the Rams arrived in St. Louis with a 20-year lease that was worded very poorly, at least from the city’s standpoint. The team required that the stadium had to remain a “top-tier” facility, defined as better than three-quarters of the rest of NFL stadiums in 2015, or they could walk.
And there’s that political expediency again, as the mid-90s politicians did whatever they needed to do to land the Rams while ignoring the problems set up for the next generation.
By any estimation the Edward Jones Dome is not in the top 10 of the league, and a the St. Louis stadium task force has been working on a plan for a new outdoor facility on the riverfront with this week’s vote being trumpeted as a real breakthrough.
“We now have more work to do to prepare our St. Louis stadium proposal for delivery ahead of the NFL’s deadline of December 30,” a statement released by the task force said. “We recognize that our proposal will require extensive review before it is considered for approval by the NFL. We are confident that it will be well received.”
So the city would finance $150 million of the potential $1.1 billion project with the rest coming from a combination of the state, the NFL and Kroenke.
On Thursday, however, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell intimated that St. Louis shouldn’t take for granted the league’s financial commitment to the project, pointing out the $200 million limit to help teams build new stadiums.
“There will be plenty of twists/turns in the stadium project,” Mayor Francis Slay wrote on Twitter. “But, it does mean the City of St. Louis will not have been a reason why there isn’t one (a new stadium).”
"It does mean that the City of St. Louis will not be the reason why there isn't one." 3/3
— Francis G. Slay (@MayorSlay) December 18, 2015
And there’s your real answer when it comes to this process in St. Louis. It isn’t about results, it’s about deflecting blame.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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