NFL

LA Rams Should Pay Back Public Funds to Missouri, Sen. McCaskill Says

The Democratic lawmaker is drafting a bill requiring refunds from teams who skip town after accepting public financing.

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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is planning to

St. Louis Can Wait.
Paramount Pictures

introduce legislation that would require sports franchises who have received public financing for their stadiums and other projects to pay back those funds if they "prematurely" relocate to another city. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that McCaskill, channeling the rage felt by many of her constituents in the Show-Me State over the NFL's decision to allow Rams owner Stan Kroenke to move his team from St. Louis to Los Angeles, wants to make sure the public is "treated fairly" if a team subsidized by taxpayer dollars decides to skip town before the bills are paid off, which is the case with the Rams.

As noted by Travis Waldron in The Huffington Post:

At the beginning of 2015, city and state taxpayers still owed more than $100 million in debt on the bonds used to finance the Edward Jones Dome, the stadium St. Louis put $280 million in public funds behind in 1995. 

It isn't scheduled to pay off that debt until at least 2021, and that could be more difficult without the Rams and the $500,000 rent payment the team made each year. The city itself owes $5 million per year over that period, and the loss of the Rams could increase costs in the short-term.

McCaskill's proposal to protect the taxpayers' investment in a private enterprise is admirable, but far too little and way too late. She still seems to fail to grasp that this monster was created by the practice of government handouts to billionaire team owners, a practice she continued to support in the form of an additional $400 million of public subsidies for a new stadium to keep the Rams in St. Louis.

Waldron details some of the loophole-riddled chicanery that brought the Rams to St. Louis in the first place, when they absconded from Los Angeles at the end of the 1994 season.

The manner in which the team left St. Louis underscored the way backstopping stadiums with taxpayer funds often benefits already wealthy owners instead of the public.

It was, after all, a curious provision in the lease deal that helped attract the Rams to St. Louis—and ultimately allowed them to leave taxpayers footing a larger portion of the bill, without a football team to boot.

As part of the rental agreement the city and state signed with the Rams in 1995, the team could vacate the lease with a year's notice if the Edward Jones Dome lost its status as a "first-tier" NFL venue (that is, among the top eight NFL stadiums).

A rash of new stadiums across the league in the last two decades ensured that the dome no longer qualified, and Kroenke and the Rams indeed chose to trigger the option to get out of the lease at the beginning of 2015.

In an article published at Reason earlier today, Jared Mayer profiles "the varying ways that NFL owners shift the costs of new stadiums to local taxpayers" and points out that "the NFL does not need public funding to survive, and the argument that publicly funded stadiums 'pay for themselves' is an economic fantasy."

Indeed, Kroenke wanted out of St. Louis so badly and sees so much greater financial opportunity in Los Angeles that he rejected the McCaskill-endorsed offer of hundreds of millions in additional Missouri taxpayer funds, choosing instead to build his own $2 billion stadium in Inglewood, CA almost entirely out of his own pocket. 

The benefits of a sports franchise to a community are largely illusory, but politicians are all too happy to credit themselves with "saving" the home team by any means necessary. On that topic, Mayer writes: 

Even in the face of substantial public costs that are not covered by the few associated tourism benefits, no mayor or governor who wants to win reelection would let a team leave. Crazed fans refuse to consider the costs (if you want to watch an irate fan screaming at a mayor who questioned if a stadium subsidy was worth the cost, check out this video) and public officials are also embroiled in bidding wars for teams whose owners are all too happy to take advantage of generous taxpayer subsidies.

For more Reason coverage on the crony capitalist quagmire of publicly-financed sports stadiums, go here. And check out Reason TV's "Top 5 NFL Hits to Taxpayers" below.

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  1. Perhaps we could just skip the public funding in the first place. Problem solved.

    1. You could fill a book with the list of things your statement applies to.

  2. “At the beginning of 2015, city and state taxpayers still owed more than $100 million in debt on the bonds used to finance the Edward Jones Dome, the stadium St. Louis put $280 million in public funds behind in 1995.”

    Suckers.

  3. I can’t wait to hear the complaints come out of LA when ticket prices start at three or four hundred.

    1. It’s L.A., I’m sure the city council will make sure Ticket Justice is a major issue.

    2. That’s not what we’ll be complaining about.

      1. You mean paying millions of dollars per year for the privilege of hosting games you can’t afford to see live isn’t enough?

        1. I’m pretty sure Hugh is complaining about the half-time shows.

        2. Who’s paying millions of dollars per year? The owner is building the new stadium with private funds isn’t he?

          1. Start figuring what the ROI has to be. Say, 15% per year to pay for the initial construction, upkeep, and fund major remodeling every 6-8 years. If the football team hosts 10 games a year, and have to bring in 2/3 of the cost, that’s $20M/game they have to recoup. That’s a $25/ticket charge right there assuming 80k tickets). Before a light is turned on or a custodian gets paid.

            1. If Kronke owns the stadium then he can rent it out for other events. College bowl games, concerts, you name it. If it’s a dome (which IIRC it will be) he can also host basketball games (The Final Four, the occasional Lakers/ Clippers games) and so on. The point being, it’s not just 10 8 regular season home games and any home playoff games (which will be few and far between for the foreseeable future) the team plays that he’ll be able to recoup costs from.

              1. Plus the certainly-higher-than-St. Louis TV revenues.

                1. Only if national TV ratings increase, which they might not with LA no longer getting a guaranteed doubleheader. Almost no local TV revenue in the NFL, unless they want to try to air training camp sessions. The new team might get more in radio broadcast rights.

        3. Meh, government boondoggles to benefit the wealthy elites are like sunny days around here. They’re so common you just stop noticing. But when you tie up the freeways you actively make everyone’s lives worse.

          1. Obviously, I meant “in addition to traffic” because that is a given.

  4. How can the government retroactively rewrite a contract it signed and agreed to? Oh, right. FYTW.

    And of course the lunkheads who signed this contract “on behalf of the citizens” will face absolutely NO negative consequences for their fuckup. This demonstrates the utter bullshit in the saying “government is just stuff that we all do together”.

    1. It would have been nice to have a little indemnity clause in those sweetheart deals, however.

    2. Different government. This pandering cunt is using the power of the federal government to rewrite state and local government contracts.

      1. blah, blah, no ex post facto laws, blah blah,

        That stuff was, like, over a hundred years ago, man!

  5. my neighbor’s half-sister makes $83 every hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 9 months but last month her payment was $17900 just working on the computer for a few hours. why not try this out

    +++++++++++++++++ http://www.Wage90.Com

    1. Marybell, St Louis may need your help. Go post on their website.

  6. Expost facto?

    1. I guess it never suggests it would apply to the rams.. just made the assumption from headline and sub headline thingy

  7. It seems to me that if there isn’t already a way for them to recoup the losses, then passing a law after the fact to retroactively punish them for an action they took that at the time was perfectly legal would be sort of what you might call an ex post facto law. If there isn’t already a rule saying you can’t pass ex post facto laws, there certainly should be, in my opinion. Maybe somebody could research that and pass along their findings to Senator McCaskill.

    1. Too little, too late. I see the ex post has already been played and it’s not clear that she’s actually going after the Rams, she may just be saying that next time the Rams move to St. Louis they’ll get handed a big bag of money but they’ll be expected to give back the bag when they skip town.

      1. The repetitiveness of the dance is monotonous.

        They should have realized by now that the NFL will be looking for another new stadium in 15 years under the threat to move once more.

  8. Former St. Louis Rams fan here…we got what we paid for. Get over it, they’re gone. Claire is just grandstanding.

  9. Every time I jhear a politician utter the word “fair” or “fairness” I think of Milton Friedman’s quote:

    “In any event, I’m not in favor of fairness, I’m in favor of freedom. Freedom is not fairness. Fairness means somebody has to decide what’s fair. And that means the FCC people have to decide what’s fair. And I don’t want the FCC to decide for me what I should listen to or hear.”

    And then I think of Tony’s quote:

    Tony|6.17.15 @ 7:56PM|#
    Fairness is essential to liberty. And I don’t know why anyone would be against fairness.

    That, in a nutshell, is the difference between us and them.

    1. Tony is a complete idiot.

    2. Tony’s liberty is the liberty of comfort.

    3. I don’t know why anyone would be against fairness

      *facepalm*

      “Share this!”

    4. If you define liberty by the length of one’s leash and you understand that one animal will kick up a fuss if he sees one with a longer leash, fairness in leash lengths is essential to maintaining the acceptance of the wearing of leashes. Doesn’t matter how short the leash, as long as there’s not one with a longer leash the animals stay content.

    5. Fairness is something little kids appeal to when they want something they can’t have. Eventually most of them learn to accept reality after being told a million times “life is not fair”. The ones that don’t become liberals.

  10. What would Joe Pendleton do?

  11. I guess I don’t understand, did the city government issue bonds with a longer term than the team’s contractual obligation to use the facility? Why not pass a law requiring private entities to also use morons when negotiating contracts?

    1. Why not pass a law requiring private entities to also use morons when negotiating contracts?

      At least then neither side will have an advantage…

  12. Sounds like the city and state made a bad deal. Of course, it could be that the Rams made a bad move by assuming the city and state would honor their end of the deal too.

    “You fucked up! You trusted us!” – both sides to each other.

  13. I dunno. “L.A. Rams”? It just sounds funny.

    1. Yeah, send them back to Cleveland where they strarted!

  14. Here in SF, we were honored to host the Larry Ellison Rubber Ducky race several years ago. A noted local slime-ball (Newsom) ‘negotiated’ with Ellison over who was paying what for that honor. I’m guessing it was ‘amusing’.
    Well, when the smoke cleared, some were surprised to find that the SF taxpayers had gotten snookered to the tune of $11.5M ( http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.c…..estimates/ ), Mr. Ellison had a grand old time and Newsom had beat it out of town to bestow upon the state his notable skills.
    He shoulda’ been hung upside down and shaken until every last penny was removed from his pockets and thereafter tarred and feathered.

  15. I was pretty pissed to hear the other day that San Diego had paid for a practice facility for the Chargers, and even after they leave we’ll be paying something like 5 million a year for 10 years to pay off the bonds. Goddammit, *50 million* flushed right down the damn toilet. Can’t even burn it for heat.

  16. How about a bill PREVENTING SUBSIDES TO BILLIONAIRE SPORTS OWNERS IN THE FIRST PLACE

    No you actually like that part… right.

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