St. Louis Rams

Public vote not needed to finance new football stadium, judge rules

A Missouri circuit court judge ruled Monday that the St. Louis Regional Sports Authority does not have to go to a public vote in order to refinance bonds for the construction of a proposed new football stadium on the St. Louis riverfront downtown, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.

Judge Thomas Frawley threw out a St. Louis city ordinance that requires public approval for any tax dollars used for a professional sports facility. His ruling calls the ordinance confusing and vague.

The St. Louis Business Journal quoted from the ruling: "The Court finds that, though each of the uncertainties in the Ordinance may be tolerable in isolation, ‘their sum makes a task for us which at best could be only guesswork.’ ... Therefore, the Court finds Ordinance is void."

Frawley also said the ordinance conflicts with Missouri state law which says tax increment financing does not require a public vote. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and his stadium task force have indicated that TIF or similar incentives could be included in the financing of a new stadium.

Nixon's task force released preliminary plans for a $900 million open-air stadium on the St. Louis riverfront, just north of the Lumiere Casino. A portion of the costs — about $200 million — would come from the refinancing of bonds still outstanding on the construction of the NFL's current home in St. Louis, the Edwards Jones Dome. The remainder of the costs would come from the NFL's G4 interest-free loan program, the team owner, tax credits and personal seat licenses.

David Peacock, co-leader of the Nixon task force, said the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority also would have new revenue streams from opening the Edward Jones Dome for more conventions.

"My task force partner Bob Blitz deserves a great deal of credit for today’s result," Peacock said in a statement. "Bob’s commitment to the stadium project is impressive and his work on this matter, along with other members of our legal team, was extraordinary. 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. As we continue to make excellent progress on the stadium project, this is a great time for everyone in the St. Louis region to rally on behalf of something that will make a difference in our economy, national profile and quality of life for generations to come. We can make it happen."

Peacock and company are one of a four-city scrum to either retain or lure an NFL team. Team officials for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have revealed plans to relocate their teams and share a stadium in Carson, Calif. Rams owner Stan Kroenke has purchased land and has plans for a stadium in Los Angeles.

NFL owners are scheduled to meet Aug. 11 to discuss the possible relocation of a team to the LA market, which makes Frawley's ruling especially well-timed.