Rams Stiff St. Louis, Leave City with $144 Million Bill

Even though the NFL team has left, taxpayers are still on the hook for stadium debt payments.


St. Louis residents no longer have a football team, but that doesn't mean they will get to stop paying for one. While the Rams won a vote in mid-January to relocate to Los Angeles, St. Louis taxpayers will still be responsible for making $144 million in debt and maintenance payments for the Edward Jones Dome. 

Lewis Reed, the St. Louis Board of Alderman president, has asked the NFL for money to help pay off the debt, but he seems unaware of how the multi-billion dollar league operates. 

As Reason has reported in the past, stadium financing is one way the NFL holds cities hostage—either pay for a state-of-the-art facility or lose the prestige of having a professional football team. This has resulted in often lopsided stadium deals that leave cities (and their taxpayers) burdened with much of the debt. 

As Reuters points out:

Across the country, cities have gotten stuck with substantial costs after sports teams leave or even move across town. Often, local governments must pay bonds, maintenance costs, or demolition fees after a team is gone.

Houston's iconic Astrodome, once dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World, sits empty a decade after the facility housed 25,000 evacuees of Hurricane Katrina and nearly 20 years after the Oilers left. The Detroit Lions' former Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, was used sporadically after the team moved downtown in 2002, but shuttered for good when the inflatable roof was deflated.

St. Louis isn't the only city that regrets its deal with the NFL. Reason's Ed Krayewski wrote just a couple weeks ago that San Francisco residents are having buyer's remorse after realizing that their agreement with the NFL to host a Super Bowl in exchange for a new stadium in Santa Clara, CA resulted in a $5.3 million bill for early lease termination. So why would any smart city want the NFL? Reason TV explored this question in the video below.