Yesterday we looked at the lengths to which the city of Tampa is willing to go to keep a professional football league in town.
Today we turn to St. Louis, where a similar effort is under way.
The St. Louis Rams football team plays in the Edward Jones Dome, which is now 21 years old. The team’s owner, Stan Kroenke, wants to pick up his team and move to Los Angeles. The city is desperate to keep the Rams, and despite Kroenke having no apparent interest in staying, has been busy fashioning a plan to save the Rams by building a new stadium for the team.
The plan: a new, $1.1 billion stadium for which the city would pay $150 million, the state would kick in another $150 million, the National Football League would pay $200 million, and the team would pay the rest.
The team, Forbes reports, is worth about $930 million. Kroenke, the owner, is worth about $6.3 billion.
Now, a little about St. Louis.
Like Tampa, St. Louis isn’t a huge city: a population of only 317,000. Its city budget this year reached the $1 billion level for the first time.
Unlike Tampa, St. Louis is a pretty poor town. Its unemployment rate is 6.8 percent, or 24 percent higher than the national average of 5.5 percent. 27.4 percent of the city’s residents live under the federal poverty level – 89 percent more than the national poverty rate of 14.5 percent. The infant mortality rate is nearly twice that of the U.S. as a whole.
So in this case, we have a city – a city with high unemployment and an astronomical rate of poverty – that just can’t wait to spend $150 million, and a state to spend another $150 million, to help build a football stadium for a business worth nearly a billion dollars that’s owned by a guy worth $6.3 billion. That business, moreover, just like that of the team we looked at yesterday, generates only a handful of good full-time, benefits-paying jobs for local residents; almost everyone associated with the business who makes a good salary is imported from another part of the country, will put down no meaningful roots in the St. Louis area, and will find his or her next job in a place hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Again, The Curmudgeon has to ask: what’s wrong with this picture? And the people who are so eager to spend the public’s money in this manner – what can they possibly be thinking?
(The Curmudgeon wrote today’s piece last week and on Sunday posted it so it would appear here today. Two days ago, however, the National Football League announced that the St. Louis football team would be moving to Los Angeles next year. While the outcome of the situation is no longer in doubt, the underlying concern – foolish public officials offering hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to highly successful but ultimately small businesses owned by astonishingly wealthy people – remains.)