Deal to divvy up NFL Rams’ settlement sets stage for spending decisions

Bonds

The public agency that owns the stadium built for the former St. Louis Rams votes this week on an agreement to divvy up a $790 million settlement over the team’s 2016 departure, setting the stage for debate over how to put the funds to use.

The tentative agreement to distribute the settlement reached with the National Football League team last November sends $250 million to the city, provides $30 million for the expansion of America’s Center convention center if approved by the city, with another $169 million going to St. Louis County, and $70 million pocketed by the public owner of the stadium — the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority.

The remaining funds cover attorney fees. The authority meets Wednesday and is expected to vote on the agreement.

“This tentative agreement is a win for St. Louis City and the entire region,” St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said in a statement. “We must invest these resources responsibly to make long-term, transformational change in our communities for future generations.”

Negotiations over how to divide the settlement took nearly a year during which various parties offered suggestions on how to use the funds. With an agreement in place debate will now heat up.

“We continue to believe that the three national models outlined in our recent white paper offer the best potential pathways to maximize the transformative potential of these one-time settlement proceeds. These funds should be deployed in an intentional and strategic manner to drive inclusive and catalytic growth in the metro,” said Jason Hall, who heads Greater St. Louis Inc.

St. Louis area officials have agreed on how to distribute a $790 million settlement reached with Rams owner Stan Kroenke, pictured above, over the team’s 2016 move to California

Bloomberg News

The paper explores options such as establishing an endowment in a trust and goals for earmarking funds, looking to what other governments have done with settlement dollars as models.

St. Louis Board of Aldermen members have pitched increased spending on early education and infrastructure and economic development efforts. County officials have said the funds will remain invested while they hold community listening sessions that will help inform a long-term plan.

St. Louis, St. Louis County and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority sued the National Football League, its franchises and their owners over the team’s 2016 abandonment, seeking to recoup financial losses from efforts to keep the team with a plan to renovate the stadium.

The parties agreed to a $790 million settlement Nov. 24 allowing the league and Rams owner Stan Kroenke to avoid airing their laundry during a state court trial that loomed in January.

The lawsuit accused them of improperly approving the team’s move to the Los Angeles area sought by Kroenke and said he misled local authorities in negotiations first over stadium renovations and then over efforts to finance a new facility.

The lawsuit alleged the NFL violated its own standards governing team relocations by approving the move in breach of their contract with the city that had offered to finance upgrades to the stadium, then known as the Edward Jones Dome and now called the Dome at America’s Center. Municipal bonds that financed construction of the stadium were retired last year.

The team announced new plans for a stadium in Inglewood, California, and moved Rams practices to California, “improperly” enriching the team as its market value doubled to nearly $3 billion at the “expense of the plaintiffs.” The league was paid a $550 million relocation fee from the Rams, the complaint says. The NFL approved the team’s relocation request in January 2016 citing the strength of the proposed stadium project in California.

The city said at the time of the filing it had lost over $100 million in net proceeds due to alleged improper conduct. The county has lost hotel and property tax revenue, as well as sales tax revenue.

The dome was built in 1995 to lure the Rams from Anaheim, California, to St. Louis. It was financed with the help of $256 million of 30-year appropriation-backed bonds the authority issued in 1991. The bonds were repaid under a complex agreement between the city, county, state with payments subject to an annual appropriation.

About $144 million remained outstanding in 2016 when the city lost the Rams.The state continued to make its $12 million annual appropriation needed to pay the total $20 million annual debt service tab that was retired this year.

The dome continues to be used for events such as conventions and concerts.

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