ST. LOUIS – With last week’s historic $790 million settlement, St. Louis has won its biggest legal fight against Rams owner Enos Stan Kroenke and the NFL. There’s now a new fight brewing on how to spend that money, all while Kroenke still walks away with one legal victory.
As City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and dome leaders grapple with how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of Kroenke’s and the NFL’s money, Kroenke still has a thorn in the side of St. Louis.
It has to do with the former Rams Park in Earth City, where the team used to practice.
It is now home to Lou Fusz Athletic, a youth sports organization that leases the space from its owner, the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority (RSA), which owns the Dome at America’s Center in Downtown St. Louis.
However, in 2019, an arbitration panel ruled the Rams Park lease gives Kroenke the option to buy the $12.7 million, 27-acre complex, for just one dollar in 2024, which he plans to do.
It is small potatoes compared with last week’s settlement. After attorneys’ fees, it should leave the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the RSA, with nearly $514 million to spend. Attorneys for the three plaintiffs are now working out how to divide it.
There’s been no comment from the 11-member RSA board, which has 1 vacancy and 8 members with expired terms. Five members are appointed by the Missouri governor, and three each by St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis.
“I don’t think 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 is a good measure,” said St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed.
The City of St. Louis should get the largest share, Reed said, since it has suffered the heaviest losses with the Rams vacating the dome downtown. He also pointed out that St. Louis County backed out of financing for a new riverfront stadium to keep the Rams in St. Louis.
“Had we not put a (new stadium) proposal before the NFL we would not have had any standing for a lawsuit,” Reed said. “The county stepped back and said, ‘Good luck with it.’ So, the city, we took all the of heat.”
St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Rita Days wants a portion of the money earmarked for a new, long-awaited, north county rec center. She also likes the idea of a larger, combined project from all three winners of the lawsuit.
“I have no idea what that will be at this time. I think it should stand as some kind of monument, memorial, as something that (says) ‘When you don’t follow the rules, this is what you get,’” she said.
Reed favors the creation of a long-term fund to be focused at least party on public safety to improve the City of St. Louis for generations to come.
“We cannot look at it as an envelope full of birthday (money) that we just received and we can’t wait to get out of the house and have our mother and father drop us off at the mall so we can go shopping,” Reed said.
The city, county, and RSA expect to settle on dividing their shares within the next weeks.
The settlement money is due by Christmas Eve.
Its board, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, and the St. Louis County Council, will have to approve any spending measures, according to Reed and Days.