CHICAGO — St. Louis is free to spend tax money to fund a new football stadium, according to a St. Louis Circuit Court ruling that overturned a city ordinance aimed at requiring such support go to a public vote.
St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Thomas Frawley in a ruling Aug. 3 tossed out the 2002 city ordinance requiring a public vote on the use of tax dollars for a professional sports stadium. The court found the language too vague and concluded it conflicts with state law. The city has not said whether it would appeal.
Frawley also refused to grant Saint Louis University law professor John Ammann's request to intervene in the complaint. He will appeal, according to a statement. Ammann also urged the city to appeal.
The ordinance says that "no financial assistance may be provided by or on behalf of the City to the development of a professional sports facility without the approval of a majority of the qualified voters of the City voting thereon. Such voter approval shall be a condition precedent to the provisions of such financial assistance."
The court found "financial assistance" too vague.
"It is clear the intent of the Ordinance is to provide the voters of the City of St. Louis with authority to approve the City's financial assistance to development of a new professional sports facility," the ruling said. "However, the fatal flaw in the Ordinance is not in what it says but in what it doesn't say."
The city and county have expressed support for a new stadium for the St. Louis Rams, to keep them from moving to Los Angeles.
A plan devised by a task force Gov. Jay Nixon appointed relies on the use of $66 million in borrowing supported by the city through the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, known as RSA, and $135 million of RSA borrowing supported by the state.
The remainder of the $1 billion package relies on $250 million from the team, a $200 million National Football League loan, $187 million in tax credits, other public subsidies and incentives, and $160 million in seat licensing sales.
"The court's opinion is a victory for a bold and promising future for the NFL in St. Louis and the continued rebirth of our downtown," Dave Peacock, co-head of the Nixon task force, said in a statement.
The RSA filed the complaint pre-emptively to determine whether a public vote on city support was needed.