ST. LOUIS (CN) - St. Louis cleared another big hurdle Tuesday in its quest to keep the Rams from moving to Los Angeles, when the Board of Aldermen gave preliminary approval to construction of a Mississippi riverfront stadium.
After more than five hours of debate, the board approved the measure by a 17-10 vote.
It was a defining step in the city's incremental legislative process.
The measure needs one more vote, scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, but the Tuesday vote indicates that stadium supporters have the 15 votes needed for approval.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke in January announced plans to build a nearly $2 billion stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
But National Football League relocation guidelines state that an owner may not move the team unless all possible solutions are exhausted in that owner's home market.
Aside from St. Louis civic leaders, Kroenke is also competing against a stadium proposal from the Chargers and Raiders, for Carson, Calif.
California says it will not provide any money for that stadium, if it happens.
Neither the Chargers nor the Raiders have firm stadium plans in their home markets and both teams are considered to have worse stadiums than the Rams.
The St. Louis stadium plan could top $1 billion and would be paid for partly by the city's extending the bonds it used to fund the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams' current home.
The NFL sweetened its offer to St. Louis at the last minute.
Overnight on Monday, the NFL agreed to throw in another $100 million for its share of construction costs. The NFL said it will contribute a total of $300 million. The team will pay $250 million.
In return, St. Louis would rebate ticket taxes to the Rams: estimated to produce more than $3 million a year. To partly offset that loss, the Rams' annual rent for the stadium would increase from $700,000 to $1.5 million.
In addition, the NFL and the Rams would be responsible for cost overruns: a major concern of stadium critics.
If approved as expected Friday, the issue would need final approval by the NFL at its league meetings in mid-January.
The sole topic of the meetings is relocation to Los Angeles. Owners are expected to choose between the two competing Los Angeles projects.
Dave Peacock, co-chairman of Gov. Jay Nixon's St. Louis Stadium Task Force, said the Board of Aldermen's approval, with the latest tweaks from the NFL, gives St. Louis the best chance to remain an NFL city: whether it be the Rams or another team.
"We have been in direct contact with key owners on committees deciding this process and we feel based on those discussions that the proposal now will get the strongest consideration by the league," Peacock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, measuring his words carefully.
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