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Apr
2015
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MO Gov Withdraws Request for St. Louis County to Contribute to New Stadium Cost, Making Building Trades Uneasy

Renderings of the proposed St. Louis Rams stadium

Rendering of the proposed St. Louis Rams stadium

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In a surprise move, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has informed the office of St. Louis County Executive Steve Stegner that the county will no longer be asked to contribute financing for a new Rams stadium.   The last financing plan from the Governor’s office has the county contributing $6 million annually. 

The move raises questions about the viability of the proposed $985 million stadium and could pave the way for the franchise to move to Los Angeles where Rams owner Stan Kroenke is currently bidding on a $1.86 billion stadium construction at the Hollywood Park racetrack.  

The news was welcomed by Stenger who is on the record as disapproving of taxpayer money going to the stadium without a public vote on the issue.  Nixon spokesman Scott Holste released a statement clarifying the county’s role in the stadium plan:

“We continue to make progress on a clear path forward to build a new stadium in St. Louis, consistent with the principles the Governor has laid out including protecting taxpayers, creating jobs and revitalizing a distressed area. Many of the options being considered include a plan to maintain and maximize the value of the existing dome and convention center. The role for St. Louis County relates to their continued support of the existing dome and convention center, which must remain an important asset to the region.

The county will continue making payments on the existing Edward Jones Dome, which total $6 million a year until 2021 before dropping to $1 million a year for three more years.

The news took many area labor leaders by surprise.  Mike O’Mara, a St. Louis County Council member, said that while he supports a public vote the county council had not been consulted about the latest move.  “We’ve had no conversations regarding it,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Nothing has come across our desk — yet.”

Jeff Aboussie of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) confirmed that unions had not been contacted about the change of plans either.  Aboussie seemed worried that the move could jeopardize the future of the region’s largest construction project. “It could derail the deal, and that would present a huge problem for us,” he said.

The BCTC recently agreed to a plan that would commit affiliated unions to a 24-hour modified schedule, a move which would save the project $45 million on wages and two years of construction time.

Pat White, President of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, touched on the magnitude of the project for the region’s trades:

“There hasn’t been anything this big ever, as far as I know. We’re talking about 1500 or more jobs working a multi-year project around the clock, that kind of money being injected into the area… there would be less folks sitting down – and working good paying union jobs, which in turn they inject it back into the area,”

The news comes at a time of growing uncertainty for the Rams franchise.  Last week, the NFL admitted that relocation plans were beginning for current NFL teams who wished to move to LA.  The short list of franchises includes the Rams, the San Diego Chargers, and the Oakland Raiders.  The Rams may have the inside track given Kroenke’s connections to the Los Angeles stadium plan and the fact that the Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles before the 1995 season.  

The news that the county will not contribute to a new stadium sets up multiple scenarios for the future of the team.  One plan is to build a new stadium across the river in Illinois.  But Illinois is in the throes of a new anti-union administration under Governor Bruce Rauner, so getting the support of the construction community could be difficult. Another plan would see the franchise itself contribute more money to the original stadium proposal.  While this would likely make the most sense, Kroenke does not necessarily want to spend more money to stay in St. Louis when his team could play in a stadium he would partially own in Los Angeles.  

County Executive Stenger said that he still supports the Rams. “This is not a deal killer,” Stenger told Andy Banker of Fox 2.  The truth is only time will tell.  

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