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St. Louis got $500M from Kroenke and the NFL. Now what?

Can St. Louis find a good way to spend $500 million and not mess this one up?
Dave Herholz /Flickr
Can St. Louis find a good way to spend $500 million and not mess this one up?

When it comes to spending St. Louis’ upcoming $500 million Rams windfall, Ben Frederickson suggests we look to the city that indirectly catalyzed it: Los Angeles.

Late last month, a trio of local entities — St. Louis, St. Louis County and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority — settled their lawsuit with Stan Kroenke and the NFL over the Rams’ unceremonious departure for LA. Now $276 million is headed to their attorneys’ bank accounts, and the government parties expect their check for approximately $500 million in the next few weeks.

So what to do with the money? Frederickson, a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says that some of the settlement must go to spruce up the Dome. The Rams’ former home was finally paid off last year but is in desperate need of funds for maintenance.

After that, he suggests, why not steal a page from LA’s playbook? After Los Angeles’ 1984 Olympic Games left the city with an improbable $235 million surplus, organizers earmarked $93 million for the LA84 Foundation. The foundation now supports hundreds of nonprofit youth sports organizations with grants and training opportunities.

The key, Frederickson said, is that the foundation didn’t spend the money right away.

“They invested it,” he explained on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “And they use the returns on the investment to fund all kinds of things for youth sports, whether it's training coaches or hosting camps.” He noted that the focus is underprivileged youth, not teams that are already flush. “They have made this self-sustaining thing where they're pouring out hundreds of millions of dollars, but they're also continuing to replenish those coffers, through their investments. And it's kind of this living legacy from the ’84 Olympics.”

Beyond the focus on sports, which Frederickson admitted he’s partial to, he likes the idea of investing the money to draw from its interest. “If you don't spend everything you have, but you actually invest a lot, you tend to get a lot back over the course of the long run,” he said. “So maybe some of the idea is not so much where to spend it, but where to place it and then skim off the top of it. That might be something, whether we're talking about it for scholarships for kids or for road repairs.”

Listen to the St. Louis on the Air discussion

Listeners joined the show both via the phone lines and social media to share their best ideas for spending the money.

In response to listener ideas, Frederickson added this thought: “Here's what my suggestion would be: Do the opposite of what Stan Kroenke would do. … Do something that has a heart, a soul to it, something that represents the opposite of what the league did, and what Stan Kroenke and Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones did when they ran roughshod over the relocation guidelines to take a football team away. ... I'm not going to sit there and be the best to tell you about policy and road fixtures, but do something that is a lasting legacy in the opposite direction of the kind of thinking and the kind of bloodless display that was taking the Rams out of St. Louis.”

Frederickson also discussed why an expansion NFL team was never in the settlement cards, why naysayers are wrong about the size of the settlement and why he hopes sports will be part of the spending plan.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.