St. Louis city officials took a key step Friday toward keeping the city's NFL team, the Rams, by approving a plan to fund construction of a new football stadium. Following months of the debate, the proposal passed 17-10, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The St. Louis Rams are one of three NFL teams considering a relocation to Los Angeles. The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have proposed a joint stadium in Carson, California, while the Rams put forth a competing plan for a stadium in Inglewood, California.
The Rams' fate now lies with NFL executives and owners. While the plan approved Friday was a necessary step, it was also imperfect in the eyes of the league. The proposed new stadium in St. Louis would cost some $1.1 billion, $150 million of which would come from the city. The plan calls for the NFL to chip in $300 million, with the state and team owner chipping in the rest. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday sent a warning letter to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and his stadium task force, saying league policy is to provide no more than $200 million for a stadium.
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The notion of the league surpassing that cap for a St. Louis stadium is "fundamentally inconsistent with the NFL's program of stadium financing," Goodell wrote, the Los Angeles Times reported. "No proposal has yet been presented to increase the available financing beyond the current $200 million maximum, and there can be no assurance that such a proposal would achieve the necessary support."
St. Louis Alderman Jack Coatar, a co-sponsor of the stadium funding bill, pushed the plan forward regardless, saying the approval will "show the NFL management and [Rams owner] Stan Kroenke that we're not going to be pushed around," the Post-Dispatch reported. Kroenke, who must agree to any final financing plan, hasn't shown much interest in staying in St. Louis.
"We're like at the strip club ... and the stripper is throwing the money back at us," Alderman Sharon Tyus said, via the Post-Dispatch. For context, the NFL brought in $12 billion in total league revenue last year, with Goodell stating years ago that plans were to increase that figure to $25 billion by 2027.
St. Louis has scrambled to come up with a new stadium plan. A 20-year lease agreement on the current stadium, the Edward Jones Dome, ends in 2015, and calls for it to remain a "top-tier" facility. But the aging stadium, which opened in 1995, is now often considered one of the worst stadiums in the league. It wasn't an easy task to pass the funding plan, with a number of aldermen against the project, one of whom called the process "legalized bribery."
NFL owners are expected to make a decision on the competing Los Angeles relocation efforts sometime next month. It remains unclear if owners would approve a team moving to L.A., especially if the affected city -- whether St. Louis, Oakland or San Diego -- has put forth a viable stadium option.