CHICAGO - A coalition opposed to public funding for stadiums is warning that the proposed St. Louis Rams stadium funding scheme would require a public vote.
"Voters in both St. Louis and St. Louis County approved measures that give them the final say before tax dollars can be spent on a new sports stadium," said Fred Lindecke, spokesman for the Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums, in a statement issued Saturday. "Voters will be making the decision, rather than politicians, or any city or county funding for the proposed stadium."
Lindecke was referring to referendum governing taxpayer subsidies for professional sports stadiums approved by city voters in 2002 and by county voters in 2004.
Missouri officials made their pitch Friday to keep the National Football League team in town, unveiling plans for an open-air, nearly $1 billion stadium partially financed with borrowing.
The $860 million to $985 million project relies on between $300 million and $350 million raised through some form of refinancing or extension of the bonds issued to finance the Rams' current venue, the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
The state, St. Louis, and St. Louis County together pay $20 million annually to cover debt service and $4 million for maintenance on the dome bonds. The city and county tap hotel and motel taxes to cover their share. The bonds mature in 2021.
Gov. Jay Nixon and the task force he appointed to look at the options of either renovating the dome or building a new stadium sought to highlight the public benefits of the proposal, but did not say whether they believe a ballot measure would be needed.
Release of the task force plan followed news that team owner Stan Kroenke planned to construct a privately financed 80,000-seat football stadium in southern California as part of a larger mixed-use development with Stockbridge Capital Group. The team moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1994. The NFL won't consider any relocation requests until 2016.
The 64,000-seat stadium plan from the Nixon task force relies on at least a $200 million contribution from the team that would be matched through an NFL program. Private seat licenses could generate about $130 million and tax credits could raise as much as $50 million. State legislative would be needed.
The Rams face a Jan. 28 deadline to provide notice of their intent to convert their current lease at the Edward Jones Dome to a year-to-year lease.
Managers of the stadium previously notified the Rams that they would not follow an arbitration panel's ruling and finance $700 million in upgrades as required under terms of the lease which expires in 2025.
The final maturity date on the dome's remaining debt is in 2021 while the Rams' lease would expire in 2025 if the team didn't exercise its conversion option.