St. Louis committee OKs football stadium financing

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The effort to keep the NFL in St. Louis cleared a major hurdle Thursday, when a committee of city aldermen approved a financing plan for a new $1 billion stadium.

The Ways and Means Committee backed the plan by a 7-2 vote. The full Board of Aldermen is expected to take up the issue Friday, but a final vote isn't expected until next week — ahead of a Dec. 30 deadline imposed by the NFL for the three cities whose teams want to move to Los Angeles.

Owners of the Rams, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders all have proposed relocation, perhaps as early as next season.

The good news from City Hall for St. Louis football fans was perhaps offset by skepticism from a key NFL executive.

In an interview Thursday with Bernie Miklasz on radio station WXOS-FM, NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman said the city "will fall short of having a compelling proposal that would attract the Rams." Grubman said the proposed stadium will "cost more than is at the drawing board at the moment, the funding has declined and new taxes are being proposed to the Rams."

David Peacock, co-chairman of the St. Louis stadium task force, said passage of the aldermen's committee measure was a "significant milestone." He called Grubman's comments a negotiating tactic and noted that NFL owners have the ultimate decision on which teams stay and which ones go.

"We aren't too tied up about it," Peacock said. "We feel good about what we have and what we're going to be able to do."

The St. Louis proposal calls for the city to finance $150 million as part of the funding for a new stadium along the Mississippi River, near the Gateway Arch. The NFL team would pay $250 million, the league would give the team a $200 million loan, and fan seat licenses would generate $160 million. The rest of the funding would come from the state, either through tax credits or bonds.

Peacock has said the goal is to either retain the Rams or lure another team to St. Louis if owner Stan Kroenke gets his wish to relocate the franchise. Kroenke is part of a group proposing a $1.8 billion stadium in suburban Los Angeles.

The use of public money has drawn opposition at the city and state level. Last month, Republican Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson sent Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon a list of 120 House members opposed to funding the stadium.

But supporters say the stadium will retain and create jobs and help revitalize a dilapidated area of the riverfront. Task force members say the stadium could also be used for soccer, potentially attracting a Major League Soccer team.

The Rams currently play in the Edward Jones Dome, which opened just 20 years ago and was built entirely with public money. However, it's considered outdated by NFL standards.

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