From the Who The Hell Didn't See This Coming file, it turns out desperate officials have badly misled their constituents about the costs and economic benefits of a publicly financed NFL stadium. This time, it's happening St. Louis—next time it will be Oakland or San Diego, and then Washington, and then maybe London, and so on.
Here's what's happening now: through a sunshine law request, St. Louis Magazine got its hands on some documents showing that city taxpayers will end up paying $215 million more for a proposed new Rams stadium than previously disclosed. The smoking gun is a schedule of loan payments appropriated from Event Day tax revenue between 2021 and 2051 that show the city's burden rising from $4.785 million to a ridiculous $9.975 million by 2051. Those payments are compounded with the base rental payments included in another schedule, which by 2023 will rise from $5 million annually to $6 million, again until 2051. All told, by 2051 St. Louis will be paying $15.975 million annually for the proposed stadium—which is a lot of fucking money for any city, let alone one already struggling to get by.
Also, raise your hand if you think the Rams will be playing in a 30-year-old stadium in 2051.
While this is all scummy and dishonest on its face, it's also even worse than it looks, and for a couple of reasons. First, St. Louis is five years away from having fully paid off the public debt associated with the awful Edward Jones Dome—under this proposal, instead of the $6 million earmarked for that debt finally dropping back into, you know, the actual municipal costs of managing a major American city, that money will go towards new financing of another stadium, along with additional millions and millions of dollars. Second, the taxpayers of St. Louis were denied a public vote on the public financing package, a move that was justified in part by the assertion that the financing of the new stadium would continue at the same level as before and require no new taxes. That turned out to be, at best, a shitty semantic end-around—Event Day taxes that would otherwise go to the benefit of the city would instead be used to pay for the new stadium, and at a level dramatically higher than before.
Not his fault. — Photo by Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
But wait! There's more!
"Now, in addition to conveniently ignoring that the current bond payments would have disappeared in 2021, the task force has quietly asked the city to back Regional Sports Authority bonds for the project at a dramatically higher level than suggested before. This presumably is needed to cover the gap in funding created when County Executive Steve Stenger refused to avoid putting the issue to a vote in the county, prompting Gov. Jay Nixon—a key stadium advocate—to remove county taxpayers from the picture."
So, when the County Executive insisted upon letting his constituents vote on their share of public financing, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon kicked the county out of the deal and shifted their anticipated share of the costs over to city residents, who had helpfully already been denied any say in the matter. Democracy in action.
And so what was already a queasy mess has officially turned into a giant clusterfuck. Having a prominent local sports team is fun, and losing one sucks. But it's increasingly obvious that St. Louis taxpayers would be better off without the Rams. The cost of keeping them—as dictated by the team's extremely greedy owners and seconded by the state's extremely shameless power brokers—far exceeds the benefit. And that's accounting for Tavon Austin being fun as hell.