The Rams settlement deal is done, but area leaders aren’t itching to spend the money
Leaders across the St. Louis region aren’t clamoring to spend the majority of the $519 million settlement over the departure of the St. Louis Rams now that there’s a plan to divide that money.
Of the $280 million going to St. Louis, the only imminent allocation will be the $30 million for the Downtown Convention Center, according to the mayor’s office.
“We have no interest in moving legislation for allocating the $250 million before the reduction of the Board of Aldermen,” St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones’ chief of staff, Jared Boyd, said Thursday. “The $30 million will move before the reduction, and that legislation has already been filed.”
The board has until June to allocate those funds for the convention center or they go to the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, the entity that oversees the Dome at America’s Center where the Rams played.
Boyd said the $30 million will help with ballooning costs of the convention center’s expansion project, which broke ground in May.
“The building costs have increased dramatically and the cost of actually financing the bonds due to the rise in interest rates,” he said.
Kitty Ratcliffe, president of Explore St. Louis, the region’s convention and visitors commission, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
The city isn’t in much of a rush to use the other $250 million in settlement money because it doesn’t have to be, Boyd said. It’s unlike the $500 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, for example, which has limitations on how and when it must be used.
“The Rams settlement funds don’t come with the same type of restrictions, and they’re not required to be spent with the same amount of velocity,” Boyd said. “Our goal right now is to help allocate those ARPA funds that do have deadlines that are more restrictive.”
That funding must be allocated by 2024 and completely spent by 2026, he explained.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said on Wednesday that the county council would help determine where its $169 million share of the settlement would go.
“We’ll have the conversation with folks in the county and other stakeholders and the county council,” he said. “And we have plenty of time to talk about it.”
But this doesn’t mean leaders should dawdle when it comes to using the massive settlement, said RSA Chairman Earl Nance.
“I think they should move immediately, move judiciously and not take as much time as it took us to make this deal certainly,” Nance said after the details of how the settlement would be broken up were approved on Wednesday.
Nance added that he has confidence the city and county will use their shares of the settlement appropriately.
In St. Louis, Boyd expects there to be some similarities to how the city is handling the ARPA funding, like gathering community input.
“We’re able to explore opportunities that will outlast ARPA and hopefully outlast our administration,” he said.
In the meantime, the city plans to invest the settlement money, while getting ideas from the community and governmental leaders, Boyd said.
“The current environment allows for in excess of 4% return on these funds just based on current interest rates, which is substantial given the size of the settlement funds,” he said.
Eric Schmid covers economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.