This morning St. Louis football fans were finally given the long-awaited announcement from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s stadium task force.
The artist renderings surely were impressive. The pictures unveiled an open air stadium right on the riverfront. The stadium would be near the brand new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge that carries Highway 70 over the mighty Mississippi. The nearly 65,000 seat stadium would serve dual purpose for both an NFL team and an MLS team. Many people wonder about flooding opportunities; however, the stadium would be built three feet above the 500 Year flood stage that was reached in 1993.
The estimated price tag is $860 million. The commission expects the NFL to commit the $200 million from their special fund and the owner of the team to at least match that number. Dave Peacock made it very clear that they have not yet spoken to Kroenke, but that his party as well as the NFL is fully informed with St. Louis’ ideas. Peacock, former President of St. Louis corporate giant Anheuser Busch, didn’t frequently reference the Rams specifically. Instead the executive was emphatic that the Rams are St. Louis’ team, reemphasizing that St. Louis is an NFL city. The Gateway to the West may have lost some Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 businesses since the Rams arrived in the 1990s, but the city still boasts more of these valuable businesses than nearly half of the other current NFL cities. It’s time for the new prominent St. Louis companies like Express Scripts Holdings to step up in the city’s economy.
It’s also important to note the plans to make the stadium open to a Major League Soccer expansion team. The lower bowl seating, nearly 30,000, would provide ample space for a soccer franchise in one of America’s best soccer towns. The task force did speak to the MLS commissioner and he strongly supported the idea of a franchise in St. Louis.
Now this announcement has not come without questions. Many critics are asking if this effort has been made too late. Kroenke’s plan is supposed to be done by 2018 while this one is scheduled for 2020. Others are concerned with the financing; the task force made it clear there would be no public tax burden, but there are still questions to be answered. Obviously the largest question is what Kroenke thinks of this. The man in the shadows has stayed in the shadows and hasn’t even communicated with the task force. I personally believe that’s why the task force emphasized the MLS opportunity and repeatedly referred to this as an NFL stadium rather than the Rams stadium. If Kroenke takes the Rams out west, St. Louis would most likely still build the stadium, try to bring in an MLS team, and wait for another NFL opportunity in the future.
While this doesn’t necessarily change anything right away, it definitely paves the road that will be traveled. The pressure is now on the NFL. Will the NFL follow its own rules regarding teams relocating? The league isn’t well known for following their own rules. (Technically Kroenke shouldn’t be allowed to own the team in the first place as he already owns other professional sports franchises in other U.S. cities.) See my previous article outlining the rules that must be followed. One of the key steps is having owners vote to allow the move. What evidence says other NFL owners want to watch the man who is already the second most wealthy owner become even more wealthy in LA? Perhaps the owners want Oakland or San Diego to have an opportunity instead. In the end, none of these rules may matter if Goodell sees dollar signs and acts as though rules don’t exist.
This announcement is a huge step forward for the city of St. Louis. A new stadium on the riverfront would serve many purposes. First of all it would re-purpose an area of downtown that is rundown and dangerous. Along with the completion of the Arch Grounds renovation project, it would completely revamp the riverfront. All of the land along the river from the Poplar Street Bridge to the new stadium would be valuable and frequently used. It’s truly about the future of the city of St. Louis.