With timing such a key issue in the NFL’s path back to Los Angeles, which seems to be headed to a conclusion by the end of 2015 or early 2016, every delay or misstep in San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis’ bid to help build new stadiums for the Chargers, Raiders and Rams becomes much more pronounced.
And perhaps game changers.
So while momentum appears to be growing in Missouri to help fund a new $985 million riverfront stadium for the Rams just north of downtown St. Louis, completing the task might more complicated than Missouri Governor Jay Nixon hoped.
And with the Rams needing clarity soon in order to weigh their Los Angeles and St. Louis options more prudently – or to avoid missing the window for relocation while waiting on an approved stadium plan – any complication is potentially lethal.
With the Chargers and Raiders pursuing a joint stadium in Carson and Rams owner Stan Kroenke planning a stadium in Inglewood – and the NFL likely deciding on who goes and who stays within the next six months – it is critical their home markets act swiftly putting finalized stadium plans on the table.
Which brings us back to Missouri and the potential monkey wrench a group of state lawmakers threw into Gov. Nixon’s plans to help finance a new stadium for the Rams.
The Governor’s two-man task force has estimated the state and city needs to contribute at least $250 million to the project, and have indicated that money will come from an extension of the bonds used to build the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams current home, more than two decades ago.
The problem is, a group of state lawmakers don’t believe Gov. Nixon has the power to simply extend the bonds, and filed a lawsuit Wednesday trying to block him from doing exactly that.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph and five other co-plaintiffs field the suit Wednesday alleging that taxpayer money is “in the process of being spent illegally,” on “an illegal construction of a new NFL stadium.”
Co-plaintiffs include Reps. Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold; Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City; Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles; Eric Burlison, R-Springfield; and Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the suit was filed in Cole County Circuit Court and assigned to Judge Patricia S. Joyce and it argues that the task force’s proposal to extend state bonds is illegal.
Essentially, their objective is to allow the Missouri Legislature a say in extending the bonds or to put it up to a public vote.
“If they want to build a stadium, go ahead, but don’t expect the state to pick up the tab unless they come to the Legislature and ask permission to go into debt,” Schaaf told the Post-Dispatch.
Or allow Missouri residents to weigh in. “I always trust the people,” Schaaf said. “If the people want to spend $300 million, more power to them.”
Wednesday’s lawsuit is the second suit aimed at addressing the bond issue.
Last April, the public body that owns and operates the Edward Jones Dome filed suit against the city of St. Louis, seeking to avoid a civic vote on the use of taxpayer money for the new stadium.
The suit argues a 2002 city ordinance requiring a public vote prior to the use of tax dollars on a new stadium is “overly broad, vague and ambiguous.”
In that suit’s case, the hope was to expedite the process not bog it down.
A hearing on that was set to open on Thursday but is being rescheduled.
If the lawsuit filed Wednesday succeeds, it appears a special session legislative vote is more likely than a statewide vote.
If the April lawsuit fails, a city vote would happen next fall.
Aside from the uncertainty of the outcomes, the timing issue would be cutting things extremely close for the Rams and the NFL.
The league’s six-owner Los Angeles relocation committee will hear updates from the Raiders, Chargers and Rams in June in New York, and a special owners meeting is being formulated for August in which all 32 owners will be updated on where the three teams stand locally and in Los Angeles.
Obviously the hope is to have as much concrete information on the table before pursing a decision.
And for the local markets, that makes any sort of delay or misstep much more pronounced.