Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nixon Defends Stadium Project, Says No Vote Needed

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nixon Defends Stadium Project, Says No Vote Needed

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * The proposed riverfront football stadium here is an economic development project and doesn't require a vote of the public or of the Legislature, Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday.

Moreover, he warned that Missouri's AAA credit rating would be damaged if some Legislators follow through on their threat to block debt payments needed to fund a new stadium.

"I don't think anyone wants to ultimately risk the bond rating of the state of Missouri," Nixon said in his most substantive defense yet of the new stadium effort. "You've got to pay your bills."

A lot has to happen before that becomes an issue, Nixon said. National Football League owners would have to vote to keep a team in St. Louis. That team would have to contribute $450 million, including NFL loans, to the project, and sign a long-term lease. And Nixon would have to authorize $135 million in bonds to cover the state's share of the stadium construction cost.

Even if Nixon's stadium task force gets everything done and on time, there's no guarantee, the governor said, that NFL owners will decide to keep a team in St. Louis.

"I'm a lawyer by trade," he said from his office in the Wainwright Building downtown. "Guarantees are written documents. There's no guarantees in any of this."

Still, he added: "If we let a few bumps in the road stop us, it dramatically enhances the risk that the riverfront's not going to get redeveloped."

Nixon became involved more than two years ago, after negotiations between the Rams and local officials stalled, and arbitrators ruled that the Edward Jones Dome had to pay as much as $700 million in facility upgrades.

Local officials refused and began planning an alternative. In November, Nixon appointed former Anheuser-Busch executive Dave Peacock and Dome attorney Bob Blitz to develop plans for a new stadium.

Not two months later, Peacock and Blitz proposed a $1 billion, open-air stadium on the Mississippi riverfront, just north of downtown. Rams owner Stan Kroenke was, meanwhile, planning a $1.9 billion stadium in Inglewood, Calif., an announcement that solidified fears that Kroenke wanted his Rams in Los Angeles. …

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