Crunching the numbers on riverfront stadium proposal

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ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - The St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s Ways and Means Committee held its first public hearing Thursday on financing for the new riverfront stadium proposal to keep the Rams and the NFL in St. Louis.

There were two sides to the ongoing argument: politics and math.

Fox 2 and News 11 crunched that math a bit on Thursday afternoon.

People who are bigger fans of money and development than football said the math tells them to do the deal. You’ve seen it all, from the glitzy stadium animations to Aldermanic criticism that the stadium deal is “pie in the sky” and “Pollyanna” that will fleece the city. But St. Louis economic policy adviser Nahuel Feffer put pen to paper with us to back Mayor Francis Slay’s belief that this is a good deal based on the math alone:

- 85 percent of the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium cost would come from non-city sources.
- $76.5 million (about ½) of the city’s $152.5 million investment will come from future tax revenues that will exist only if the stadium is built.
- $76 million would come from reworking Edward Jones Dome bonds – to be paid back over 35 years.

The city’s dome payments have been fixed at $6 million-a-year. They would drop to $4.5 million next year and slowly rise over the 35 year payback period. They would not top $6 million until 2031 and would rise to $8.9 million by 2051.

“What we’re doing here is to essentially get to the same place, same amount of money, but start lower, $4.5 (million) with 2 percent growth over the life and basically change the equation,” said Otis Williams of the St. Louis Economic Development Corporation.

The city would get $130 million in direct revenue from game day tax sources: ticket tax, sales tax, income tax on players and stadium workers, parking, plus permits and fees during the construction period.

There would be 3,000 new construction jobs, 2,600 seasonal stadium jobs, and between 50 and 100 full-time stadium jobs that would be lost if the Rams left St. Louis.

If the Rams leave after this year, the city will have to come up with $18 million over the next 5 years to pay off debt on the empty dome.

City schools will lose $11 million in Rams-related tax revenues. Metro transit would lose $8.5 million and the Great Rivers Greenway, which looks to develop areas by tying them into our waterways, would lose $2.2 million.

“We are working the area between the Eads Bridge and the Stan Musial Bridge. With the billion-dollar investment with the stadium, it essentially is a catalytic investment in the sense that instead of 25 years of economic development in that corridor, we probably cut it in half,” Williams said. “We fully understand the impact of having an NFL team and the impact of not having one.”

Based on the conservative 2 percent growth rate, supporters say the city's true net cost over 35 years is only about $22 million (about $630,000 per year). The bond payments remain a big bone of contention.

It's like paying a mortgage.

To pay off $76 million in bond debt, the city will end up paying $239 million over the next 35 years.