ST. LOUIS – St. Louis’ historic legal settlement with Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the NFL has officially been “divvied up.”
Among those on the board that gave its final approval to the plan Wednesday, concerns remained about how St. Louis City and County spend their shares of the funds.
“Hallelujah,” said Earl Nance Jr., chair of the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Authority (RSA).
After the plan cleared its final hurdle with a unanimous vote of the RSA board, which operates the Dome at America’s Center, where the Rams played their home games in St. Louis.
The vote came more than a year after attorneys for St. Louis and the NFL met at a Clayton law office and struck the $790 million settlement.
The City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the RSA will discuss the $519 million that will remain after attorneys’ fees and the maturation of the funds in an interest-bearing account on Jan. 12.
The City of St. Louis gets more than half: $280 million, but $30 million of it must go to the America’s Center (Convention Center) expansion project or be given to the RSA should the St. Louis Board of Aldermen fail to allocate the money to Convention Center expansion.
St. Louis County gets nearly a third: $169 million.
The RSA gets about 13%: $70 million and possibly that additional $30 million from the city.
Under state law, the RSA can only use its funds on the dome. Nance said the RSA’s share will keep the dome operational for at least another decade.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones attended the RSA meeting. She told the board she was simply there to show support. She rushed to a waiting vehicle without comment after the vote, except to say that she was late for another commitment.
With the process now behind them, multiple board members broke their silence about the secret negotiations for dividing the funds that dragged on for most of 2022. They cited a lack of leadership from the city and St. Louis County.
The RSA board voted in June to move more than half a billion dollars into a higher-interest account while negotiations continued.
Mayor Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page did not sign off on it until last month, perhaps missing out on $2 million or more in interest.
The RSA board also passed a resolution to keep the money together to do something “transformational” for the St. Louis region. Board members now say the city and county just wanted their money.
“I think our litmus test would be something that if you saw it 10 years from now, you’d say, ‘Man, that really made a difference,’” said Dave Spence, vice chair of the RSA board. “Whether that’s crime prevention in downtown or in our city or programs or opportunities that need a little nudge to get over the goal line … (but) that’s all a moot point right now.”
“Throughout this process, we tried to do the right thing. We tried to get the money invested in high rates of return,” said Joseph Blanner, secretary-treasurer of the RSA board. “We tried to change the narrative, the discussion.”
“I think (the city and county) should move immediately, move judiciously, not take as much time as it took us to make this deal,” Nance said.
He said he had confidence in them to do just that.
“St. Louisans should take comfort in the fact that these funds will be invested responsibly as we moved toward making a final decision,” said Jared Boyd, Jones’ chief of staff.
He added that the city would not rush to make that final decision.
A City of St. Louis spokesperson said appropriating most of the city’s ARPA funds by 2024 was the top priority.
“We’ll sit down with the council and talk about how much of this we want to put in a rainy day or savings, or endowment, or if we want to put any of it to work in the county,” Page said.
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the St. Louis County Council will have the final say over how their shares are spent.
For its part, the RSA approved a request for proposals to invest its $70 million share into an interest-bearing account, which at current rates would make about $8,600 in interest per day, according to Spence.