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Questions being raised over transparency of Riverfront Stadium details

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ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – The public body funding St. Louis’ attempt to build a new NFL stadium Downtown met Wednesday to receive an update on progress. But some are questioning just how public that public meeting really was.

The Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority held its quarterly public meeting, but the briefing they received from one of the two members of Governor Jay Nixon’s stadium task force was limited. At least the portion laid out in front of the public audience lacked detail.

The group was upbeat, saying they remain ahead of schedule in efforts to present a “shovel ready” stadium plan to the National Football League.

“The real obstacle is not knowing what the NFL is going to do,” Chairman James Shrewsbury said. “We have plans. We’re ready to go. But obviously we’re not going to build a stadium if we don’t have a team.”

Task force member Bob Blitz spoke of his most recent trip to NFL headquarters.

“We met with the relocation committee. They have asked us not to comment too much on that,” he shared.

Then he addressed two lawsuits underway surrounding the project. One, in the city of St. Louis, is a test of a law that would require a public vote on stadium funding. It was filed by the commission in an effort to have the law thrown out. The second suit, by a small group of state lawmakers, is trying to stop the extension of bonds on the Edward Jones Dome to fund the project.

On that front, all is would say was, “There are obviously some lawsuits pending that we cannot talk about in open session.”

Then the group went behind closed doors to discuss the details that so many are anxious to hear.

During that executive session, Saint Louis University Law Clinic Professor John Ammann expressed frustration with what he had, or more succinctly, had not heard.

“That’s a concern if the NFL is saying, ‘Keep this process secret,’” he told reporters.

He represents a small group trying to intervene in the city lawsuit, trying to force more transparency, and possibly a public vote to use city money.

“The public can’t intelligently discuss the project until we see what the details are,” he said. “I don’t think we know enough yet. The presentations that have been made to the NFL haven’t been made to the voters and residents of the city. We’d like to see those presentations.”

But Blitz, speaking after the closed door session ended, said there are certain things about transactions like this that have to be kept close to the vest.

“I think this is a business transaction like any other transaction and when you’re doing those type of things, they by necessity have to be kept confidential.”

As for the league’s call for silence, he says it’s a request more than a demand.

“We’re trying to be good citizens with the NFL and we want the NFL to have confidence in us and especially in Dave and I that we’re going to get this thing done, so we’re going to follow their protocol.”

As all this was going on, the judge set to hear the St. Louis lawsuit, Judge David Dowd, removed himself from the case, Wednesday, citing a health concern. Judge Joan Moriarty was slated to replace him. Then, stadium task force lawyers asked that she be removed. Late Tuesday Thomas Frawley was named to hear the case.