Earlier this year St. Louis lost a professional football team.
It was a painful, drawn out ordeal made much worse by the fact that the city had offered 400 million dollars towards building a new stadium – the most ever (at that point) promised to a professional sports team – and still got a #byefelicia from the Rams.
We’ll never know just how truly big of a bullet the STL dodged when Stan Kroenke moved the franchise to Los Angeles. But on the surface, I think we can all agree that giving a man worth 7.4 billion dollars another 400 million dollars so he can then build a structure and make hundreds of millions of more dollars for himself seems kind of silly. After all, Mr. Kroenke isn’t exactly known for his giving nature – I wouldn’t have expected much of that new profit to work it’s way back into worthy local causes.
Or maybe it’s not silly at all?
Over the past several weeks, the Blues, Cardinals and the yet to be awarded STL MLS team have all come forward with hat in hand, looking for tax payer largesse.
- News Item 1: Expansion planned for Ballpark Village
- News Item 2: Plans revealed for 200M downtown MLS stadium
- News Item 3: Blues want renovations to Scottrade Center
All three are different situations. With caveats, stipulations and unique situations. And I’m sure that if you really wanted to get technical, these caveats, stipulations and unique situations might make each of their respective cases seem not only palatable, but worthy of your support.
They’re probably not.
These STL situations aren’t exactly what John Oliver was talking about. But the overall point? About using tax money on public stadiums? He’s probably right.
Please don’t get me wrong… I want an expansion of Ballpark Village. I want an MLS team in St. Louis. I want the Blues to have a top-tier facility. All of these things would bring benefits for the teams, the fans and the city.
The teams/people involved in these deals are wealthy and can afford to do these deals themselves, no? In 2015, Forbes named the Cardinals the most profitable MLB franchise (more than the Yankees or Dodgers or Cubs) and estimated that they banked 73M+ in operating profit.
Not revenue. Profit.
Meaning that the Cardinals could fully fund their BPV expansion in what, a year? Two?
Ok, Ok… I’m oversimplifying this. I know. The Cardinals have to pay expenses, taxes, interest… it’s not like all of that 73M went right to the bank. Point is the team makes really great money.
The expansion will bring in new tax revenue. It will create new jobs. It will build new premium office space in a downtown devoid of new premium office space. I just can’t square the fact that the Cardinals will be using public money to make money for… themselves.
I’m not alone. From STLToday:
That arm of the city, the St. Louis Development Corporation, did endorse the latest Ballpark Village proposal. Yet based on its analysis of public help and new taxes generated, SLDC financial analyst Jonathan Ferry told an aldermanic committee Wednesday that the project was “right at the cusp” of what the city considers an adequate score: 24 out of 40 possible points.
The analysis is part of a new push from City Hall to better quantify and scrutinize the tax breaks handed out to projects large and small across the city. Aldermen spent much of Wednesday morning studying the complex financing package submitted by the Cardinals and Cordish, questioning the amount of new revenue the city could expect and how much business would be shifted from current establishments downtown.
‘Right at the cusp’. ‘Complex financing package’. These are terms that aren’t generally harbingers of future smashing success. They kind of sound like, well, a city that’s walking arms outstretched into the warm fuzzy glow that sports franchises have smothered on bad deals to cities for the past couple of decades.
I guess we’re picking on the Cardinals deal (it is a Cardinals blog after all), but the MLS and Scottrade Center asks are both also devoid of solid evidence that they’ll benefit the city any more than buying 10,000 barrels of Natty Light and having the city’s most epic kegger.
Maybe I’m wrong.
If so, please let me know what I’m missing. Until then, I’d think twice about casting a vote in favor of tax dollars for stadium (or stadium adjacent) projects.