Yet Again With Public Financing for a Football Stadium

Yesterday we looked at the lengths to which the city of Tampa is willing to go to keep a professional football league in town.

Today we turn to St. Louis, where a similar effort is under way.

The St. Louis Rams football team plays in the Edward Jones Dome, which is now 21 years old. The team’s owner, Stan Kroenke, wants to pick up his team and move to Los Angeles. The city is desperate to keep the Rams, and despite Kroenke having no apparent interest in staying, has been busy fashioning a plan to save the Rams by building a new stadium for the team.

ramsThe plan: a new, $1.1 billion stadium for which the city would pay $150 million, the state would kick in another $150 million, the National Football League would pay $200 million, and the team would pay the rest.

The team, Forbes reports, is worth about $930 million. Kroenke, the owner, is worth about $6.3 billion.

Now, a little about St. Louis.

Like Tampa, St. Louis isn’t a huge city: a population of only 317,000. Its city budget this year reached the $1 billion level for the first time.

Unlike Tampa, St. Louis is a pretty poor town. Its unemployment rate is 6.8 percent, or 24 percent higher than the national average of 5.5 percent. 27.4 percent of the city’s residents live under the federal poverty level – 89 percent more than the national poverty rate of 14.5 percent. The infant mortality rate is nearly twice that of the U.S. as a whole.

So in this case, we have a city – a city with high unemployment and an astronomical rate of poverty – that just can’t wait to spend $150 million, and a state to spend another $150 million, to help build a football stadium for a business worth nearly a billion dollars that’s owned by a guy worth $6.3 billion. That business, moreover, just like that of the team we looked at yesterday, generates only a handful of good full-time, benefits-paying jobs for local residents; almost everyone associated with the business who makes a good salary is imported from another part of the country, will put down no meaningful roots in the St. Louis area, and will find his or her next job in a place hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Again, The Curmudgeon has to ask: what’s wrong with this picture? And the people who are so eager to spend the public’s money in this manner – what can they possibly be thinking?

(The Curmudgeon wrote today’s piece last week and on Sunday posted it so it would appear here today. Two days ago, however, the National Football League announced that the St. Louis football team would be moving to Los Angeles next year. While the outcome of the situation is no longer in doubt, the underlying concern – foolish public officials offering hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to highly successful but ultimately small businesses owned by astonishingly wealthy people – remains.)

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  • pastorbeetle  On January 15, 2016 at 11:09 am

    All this, plus a number of other greed-related issues, is why I have stopped paying any attention to major professional sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc…). I refuse to support these grotesque situations with my money or time. Super Bowl 50 be damned.
    Sad thing is that collegiate sports is not much better lately.

    • foureyedcurmudgeon  On January 15, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      It was pretty awful, reading the NFL commissioner’s statement that the offer St. Louis put on the table was simply unacceptable. As I’ve written here before, I’ve completely eliminated any consumption of college sports and greatly reduced my exposure to professional sports. I rarely watch any basketball and only watch pro football if I’m feeling lazy and just want to sit in front of the television. I still enjoy hockey, and my love for baseball is never going to go away, but I try to limit myself to watching the games and reading about the games I miss. That means no sports reports on television, newspaper stories but not columns, the games themselves but neither the pre-game show nor the post-game show, and just one sports talk radio show a week, but even in that case, if they wander off sports, I change the channel. I feel bad for the people of St Louis, having lost not one but two NFL teams, but on the other hand, when they lost the first one they stole the second, so it’s hard to feel sorry for them. I also suspect that a lot of people in Los Angeles are not going to be happy about having a team in their area. My late father used to tell me how great it was not having a team because both networks that show pro football showed two games every Sunday. With local teams, though, that’s not permitted (part of the NFL’s greed).

  • pastorbeetle  On January 20, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I was living in the the St. Louis area when they “acquired” the Rams, and paid no little attention to them – I even sank some cold hard cash into tickets. I was euphoric with the rest of the metro area in ’99 when they won the Super Bowl. Yeah. No more, for reasons already stated.
    Because I love the GAME, I satisfy my baseball itch with the Springfield (IL) Sliders of the Prospect League and the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League in Sauget, IL. You can see the Arch from their stadium. The games aren’t bad, either! You can hear the chatter on the field and the umpires can hear us. Tickets are $5 for a Slider general admission (senior discount), and $12 for a Grizzlies box seat. Another nice feature in cheaper and BETTER food! A beer is only $2 instead of $8-10! Are there similar situations in the Philly area?
    Go Sliders!

    • foureyedcurmudgeon  On January 20, 2016 at 10:45 am

      In the Philadelphia area there are minor league teams in Wilmington and Trenton; a team in Camden just folded. The real place to go, though, just as it was when we were kids, is Reading. But Brian – senior discount!

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