St. Louis, county and Dome board reach agreement to split $519 million Rams settlement
Updated at 7:15 p.m. Nov. 23 with comments from St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones
After months of haggling, St. Louis, St. Louis County and the board that oversees the Dome announced an agreement Tuesday night on how to divide the $519 million settlement over the Rams leaving.
The tentative agreement calls for the money to be divided as follows:
- St. Louis will get $280 million, with $30 million dedicated to the Convention and Visitors Commission. If the Board of Aldermen doesn’t allocate the $30 million by June of next year, those funds will go to the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority (RSA) — the board that oversees the Dome at America’s Center where the Rams played.
- St. Louis County will get $169 million.
- The RSA will get $70 million.
"This tentative agreement is a win for St. Louis City and the entire region," said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones in a statement. "We took the NFL to court and held them accountable for the millions of dollars they cost us."
Roughly a year ago, the city, county and the RSA announced a $790 million settlement over the Rams’ exit from St. Louis. After deducting attorneys’ fees, there was a little over $500 million left for the three parties. There should be around $519 million by January thanks to a decision to place the funds into an account that garners interest.
As negotiations dragged on, policy makers came up with various ideas on where the funds should go. For instance, recently-elected St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Megan Green has suggested the money should go toward city maintenance projects and to bolster early childhood education.
St. Louis County Councilman-elect Dennis Hancock recently said that officials should consider spending the money to spruce up St. Louis Lambert International Airport and to bolster economic development initiatives.
RSA officials also wanted a share of the money to maintain the Dome at America’s Center. While it’s no longer home to an NFL team, it’s been used since the Rams’ departure for conventions, concerts and events such as the WWE’s Royal Rumble.
The agreement is contingent on the RSA approving the terms of the deal. Some members of that board have embraced placing the money in a fund — and then, as one of the options, using the interest to pay for regional projects. But that idea also has detractors, particularly local elected officials who want a say over where the funds go.
Greater St. Louis Inc. had put out a white paper last month that examined several possibilities, including setting up a long-term trust or endowment fund. In a statement after the deal was made public, Greater St. Louis Inc. CEO Jason Hall urged the city, county, and RSA “to steward and invest these once-in-a-lifetime funds to grow the St. Louis economy for generations to come with a boldness that transcends jurisdictional boundaries and drives inclusive growth across the metro.”
“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,” Hall said.
But placing the funds into something resembling an endowment also has detractors, particularly some local elected officials who want a say over where the money goes. Missouri also places restrictions on how municipal and county money can be invested.
In any case, the agreement will likely satisfy St. Louis officials who had been pushing to get a larger share of the settlement funds. Besides the fact that the Rams played in the city, St. Louis County refused to contribute financially to a 2015 stadium proposal aimed at keeping the NFL team in the city.
“I think the city should get the lion's share, because we were the most harmed by the Rams leaving,” Alderman Jack Coatar of the 7th Ward said Wednesday. “And frankly, when we were trying to keep them years ago, the county was an impediment to that effort.”
St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin, said Wednesday he felt the county was “shortchanged under the deal.”
When asked about criticism of the county not participating in the 2015 stadium plan, Harder said St. Louis County taxpayers have been more than generous when it comes to supporting the Dome and the Downtown Convention Center.
“I think we do need a place at the table,” Harder said. “And we should have gotten at least a little bit bigger settlement than what was worked out here.”
Harder said he was intrigued by the idea of placing the money into something resembling an endowment, which he said could have had the funds last longer. But he’s not optimistic that such a proposal will make it through the RSA process. The RSA is composed of three appointees from the city, three from the county and five from the state — so the city and county members could hypothetically overrule the state members.
“I think people have been told that somehow this money will be something that will change the overall outlook or overall trajectory of this county and city together,” Harder said. “And I got a feeling this will be used to balance budgets across the region, in some form or another.”
Coatar said that “if the city and the county have an agreement here on how to split up this money, this is how it's gonna get split up.” He did add that the endowment idea was worth exploring.
“I don't know the intricacies of how you can invest these public funds in some sort of endowment,” Coatar said. “But I think we would have gotten more bang for our buck long term if we were able to grow the pie, rather than just split it up and spend it down.”
Jones said St. Louis "cannot take a hammer to the political piggy bank."
"We must invest these resources responsibly to make long-term, transformational change in our communities for future generations," Jones said.
The Rams settlement is the latest cash infusion for the city and the county. Both jurisdictions received hundreds of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan, the federal COVID-19 relief package.