Super Bowl

Missouri Offers to Hand Out $500 Million to Multibillion-Dollar NFL Team


With rumors swirling that one of its National Football League (NFL) teams might be relocating to Los Angeles, the Missouri state government announced plans Friday to finance a $900 million new stadium for the St. Louis Rams— $460 million to $535 million of which would come from public funding in the form of bonds or tax credits.

||| St. Louis/flickr

Any time an NFL team wants a new stadium or upgrade, they float out the L.A. bogeyman, and the state or municipal government—fearful of being forever remembered for "losing" a team—dutifully agrees to the franchise's every crony whim. Rams owner Stan Kroenke has taken matters a step further in his threatening, actually buying a plot of land in L.A. and then refusing to speak with St. Louis mayor Francis Slay, prompting the spineless state of Missouri to step in with its sweetheart deal.

This proposal comes just two years after an arbitrator ruled the city of St. Louis must pay the Rams $700 million for upgrades to their current stadium and 20 years after the city ponied up $600 million to attract the team to St. Louis in the first place.

Countless studies show such taxpayer-funded stadium projects have zero economic impact, simply giving billionaire owners—largely freed from their greatest operating costs—more disposable revenue with which to pay millionaire athletes even higher salaries.

A recent FiveThirtyEight analysis found that St. Louis represents only the 23rd-largest NFL fan base, with an estimated 540,000 fans, meaning the subsidy would cater to just 18.6 percent of St. Louis' population. The Rams ranked 30th out of 32 teams in attendance last year (they would have been 31st if Minnesota's team had not been playing in a temporary stadium) and 29th in local TV ratings, beating out only Miami among markets that don't split viewers between two franchises.

The Rams have until January 28 to make the tough decision of whether to take roughly $500 million from Missouri taxpayers or move to the nation's 2nd-largest market in L.A. It makes you wish more politicians would adopt Gov. Chris Christie's logic. When the New Jersey Nets failed to shake down the Garden State government for arena subsidies and relocated to Brooklyn in 2012, Christie said: "My message to the Nets is goodbye. You don't want to stay? We don't want you. I mean seriously, I'm not going to be in the business of begging people to stay here…They want to leave here and go to Brooklyn? Good riddance. See you later…There will be no tears shed on my part tonight. They go? They go."

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  1. STL is a baseball town. KC is a football town. MO should just embrace this truth and go with it.

    1. I doubt the NFL will let the Rams move to LA anyway. If the Rams move to LA, the NFL will no longer be able to use the threat of moving to LA as a way to extort money out of cities.

      The Ed Jones Dome or whatever they are calling it, is a decent enough facility. If they can’t make it there, too fucking bad.

      1. If the Rams move to LA, the NFL will no longer be able to use the threat of moving to LA as a way to extort money out of cities.

        Basically, LA is a perpetual carrot, then? That’s the impression I get from these negotiations.

        1. Yes. The NFL doesn’t really need to be in LA and LA doesn’t need the NFL. But the NFL can never admit that.

        2. In the past Los Angeles has had two different NFL teams, the Rams and the Raiders. The Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders moved to Oakland. If it were such a great market for football, you’d think that wouldn’t have happened.

        3. A hilarious by-product of the Rams moving to LA would be watching the wind deflate out of the sails of the people cheerleading a new San Diego stadium. Without the LA threat they could play another 25 years at Qualcomm.

          1. I’ll admit, having gone to games at Jack Murphy (fuck the corporate name game) – the stadium is old and run down (what happened to the naming rights money? Sure didn’t go to maintenance). The Chargers should build a new stadium, just not with taxpayer money.

  2. If you’re going to include something from Chris Christie, you could’ve chosen something more on topic. Like this.

  3. I’ll also note that Kroenke, on top of being a billionaire NFL owner, is also a billionaire soccer tam owner (owns Arsenal FC, valued at $1.3 billion as of the last Forbes list). Why anyone cares about giving these people free taxpayer $$ for stadiums, I really have no clue.

    1. Bread, circuses, big boy cities have sports teams, playgrounds for the rich, etc.

      1. You can almost, sort of, if you squint your eyes, make a case for English soccer having that kind of cultural impact – where stadiums stand around for more than a hundred years and teams don’t move around the country on a whim.

        But in the US, with football – no way. It’s laughable.

    2. You don’t get to be a billionaire by turning down other people’s money.

      I know we’re supposed to think of businessmen as machines who chase after profits wherever they originate out of practical necessity (if I don’t grab that rent, my competitors will), but it’s difficult not to put franchise owners who connive with city govs into the same category of shameless rent-seeker as Musk.

  4. Any time an NFL team wants a new stadium or upgrade, they float out the L.A. bogeyman, and the state or municipal government?fearful of being forever remembered for “losing” a team?dutifully agrees to the franchise’s every crony whim.

    Isn’t there a branch of economics that describes the perverse incentives that lead public servants to horrible decisions for completely rational reasons?

    Public . . . public policy economics. Yes, that must be it.

  5. *Local perspective*

    The NFL will probably not allow the move because LA is best reserved as a threat. That said, this deal greases a lot palms than the St. Louis Lambs. We’ve got union boys, construction companies, city inspectors, suppliers who all need to get their beaks wet. A new stadium, down by the river makes a lot of people very rich. If it comes at the taxpayers’ expense, even better.

    1. So you’re saying the Rams will be

      “…playin’ in a stadium….

      …DOWN BY THE RIVER!!!”

      *adjusts belt and pulls up pants awkwardly*

      1. *crashes through coffee table*

        1. ah yes – perfect!

    2. If I lived in a city that got bilked for 600M and now they want another 900M just 20 years later… I would definitely tell the Rams to go fuck themselves. And I’m sure I would be ignored.

  6. As always, fuck Art Modell.

    1. What Warty said.

      Also, on topic, FUCK CALIFORNIA.

    2. It would have been funny to see a Colts Ravens playoff game. The people in Baltimore rightly feel the same way about the Colts that you feel about the Ravens. Before there was Modell, there was Robert Irsay, who was just as appalling.

      1. I love seeing Ravens fans complaining about their hurt feelings about the Colts. They’re so close to figuring it out.

        1. It is nothing personal. They lost the Colts before Cleveland lost the Browns. And be honest Warty, don’t tell me Cleveland wouldn’t have happily screwed Detroit or Cincinnati to get a team back after it lost the Browns.

          1. Maybe. I don’t think I would have supported an even-more-fraudulent new Browns – it would have been too obviously hypocritical. Which would probably meant that I would have become a Bengals fan if they still existed or, god forbid, a Steelers fan since I lived there at the time. Perish the thought.

          2. I’m pretty sure a lot of people here wanted nothing to do with stealing a team, especially a rival like Cincinnati.

  7. Who do I need to lobby to get some subsidies for alt-text?

    1. “Nice little internet begathon ya got there, REASON….”

  8. Their current dome is just barely 20 years old.

    WTF do they need a new one for?

    1. No clue. Somebody go ask Atlanta.

    2. When you don’t have to pay for things you ae more likely to see them as disposable. It is a ridiculous fact that sports stadiums now have a max lifespan of twenty years.

  9. The Deserving Poor.

  10. Question I had the other day watching the Packers: why are most NFL teams owned by a single rich guy rather than some group or organization like a corporation?

    1. Because it is illegal for teams to be owned by the fans. The Packers were grandfathered in.

      Here are the Packers: financially solvent, competitive, and deeply connected to the hundred thousand person city of Green Bay. It’s a beautiful story but it’s one that the N.F.L. and Commissioner Roger Goodell take great pains both to hide and make sure no other locality replicates. It’s actually written in the N.F.L. bylaws that no team can be a non-profit, community owned entity. The late N.F.L. commissioner Pete Rozelle had it written into the league’s constitution in 1960. Article V, Section 4?otherwise known as the Green Bay Rule?states that “charitable organizations and/or corporations not organized for profit and not now a member of the league may not hold membership in the National Football League.”…

      1. “”charitable organizations and/or corporations not organized for profit”

        Yeah, but why no for profit corporations?

        1. The Packers are different. The original charter of the team designated the local VFW post as the beneficiary of any proceeds if the team was ever sold and moved. Later that was changed to a charitable trust set up by the team.

          They are all for profit corporations other than the Packers and most owners are just majority owners not sole proprietors.

      2. What possible reason is there for this? Some of the richest soccer teams in the world are fan-owned, for example. Some leagues even require it.

        1. The reason is Green Bay should have lost its NFL team in the late 20s like Canton and Akron and the rest of the small cities did. For some reason it didn’t. So in 1950, they sold stock to the local community to ensure the team never left. Otherwise, the Packers would have long since been bought by an investor and moved to another city.

          1. Now that I think about it, American team sports don’t have promotion or relegation. In England, the Packers would have simply been relegated to a lower league.

            1. Yeah. Teams like Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday were a big deal in the 50s and up until the 80s. Now they are all in the minor leagues.

              1. Leeds was massive into the late ’90s. They spent themselves into the lower leagues.

              2. Wednesday has at least been back up to the Premier League several times.

        2. I think it is also done to make sure that public ownership in a team is off the table when negotiating these new stadium deals.

          For example, if more cities started to decide that they will only build a stadium if the owner sells the team to the city too, then the NFL starts to lose their leverage for the second and third stadiums.

    2. Packers are a total exception to the rule. They are the last small town NFL team. In the late 20s, the NFL eliminated or moved all of the teams from small cities like Canton, Ohio, Duluth, Akron and a few other places. Green Bay was the one small city team to survive.

      The team was founded by Curley Lambeau. In 1950, in order to keep the team in the city, the team was old off to stock holders where no one could buy more than a few shares and they had to be from the city to buy it. So the team has been owned by the city effectively ever since.

      The other teams are not necessarily owned by one owner. Many times the owner is just a majority owner or the front man to a group of investors. I am not sure about the NFL teams, but Jerry Rhinesdorf, despite being a prick and pretending like he has real money, doesn’t actually own much of the Chicago Bulls and the White Sox. He is the front man for an investment group, the largest member of which was Lamar Hunt when he was alive.

    3. Because politicians can only fellate one person at a time, thus the single rich team owner.

  11. I wish someone would point out that the advances in HD TV and being able to get any NFL game you want at your house via cable or satellite means that it is no longer necessary (or even desired) to go to the stadium.

    The same thing has made more people skip going to a theater and simply wait for it to be available via some streaming service.

    When the Vikes were threatening to move, I was all for it. Who gives a shit where they play now? I could get NFL Ticket and watch all their games and I could read the local LA sportswriters online so I would be just as informed about the Vikes shortcomings as I am now.

    1. But isn’t this actually why the owners are pushing for new, nicer stadiums? Have to entice those fans somehow, and the cleaner, swankier mega stadiums are meant to justify to that fan why they should pay so much to come watch the game in an uncomfortable seat with lots of people you don’t know screaming around you.

      1. They get away with it because they know there is no shortage of idiots willing to throw that much money away. It’s the same effect you see in the Manhattan rental market.

      2. They could give a shit about the comfort of the fans. What they really want is to capture more of the revenue streams in the stadium.

        The new Vikings stadium now has personal seat licenses. The old one didn’t.

        I’m sure the Vikes are also getting way more revenue from concessions and other items in the stadium.

        They just sell the swanky aspect to get the rubes fired up to allow them to plunder the taxpayers.

    2. it is no longer necessary (or even desired) to go to the stadium

      Not for what they’re charging, hell no.

    3. I also think that the media is complicit in this cronyism. Local media outlets love major league sports because it generates a lot of content for them.

      When the Vikes were moaning about their stadium woes, every host on sports talk radio went on and on about how important they were.

      The local announcers also would talk about how important a new stadium was during the games.

      Of course no critic every had a similar chance to rant about what a dumb idea it was.

      If stadiums were something mundane like a widget factory and didn’t fill hundreds of column inches in the paper, the media would be all over how horrible it was for a billionaire to get subsidies from the public. But since that billionaire is helping them make money, they are silent.

  12. That’s the beauty of college football: LA can never get the Buckeyes.
    But seriously, if they win, we’re printing 60,000 extra papers tonight. O-H…!

    1. Send some up here, will ya?

  13. Why should the Rams be the only team from the state of Misery to receive corporate welfare? Springfield should cut a similarly-sized check to my Chiefs too.

    1. oops, Jefferson City.

  14. This proposal comes just two years after an arbitrator ruled the city of St. Louis must pay the Rams $700 million for upgrades to their current stadium and 20 years after the city ponied up $600 million to attract the team to St. Louis in the first place.


  15. Sounds like a very good deal to me dude.

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