ST. LOUIS (CN) - St. Louis has upped the ante in a billionaire boys club's high-stakes poker game, trying to keep the NFL Rams from moving to Los Angeles, as the Raiders and Chargers have their own plans there.
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday gave final approval to help fund construction of a riverfront football stadium to keep the Rams in town. The bill passed by a 17-10 vote, two more than the 15 votes needed for passage.
The move brings more intrigue to the NFL Owners' Meetings in Houston in January, where league owners are expected to vote between competing Los Angeles stadium proposals, deciding which of three teams get to move.
The NFL is expected to approve at least one move, to fatten the profits of a $9 billion business by returning to the United States' second-largest television market, after a 20-year absence.
In January this year, Rams owner Stan Kroenke said he would move the team to Inglewood, Calif., to a $2 billion privately financed stadium.
Four days later, Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz, co-chairmen of Gov. Jay Nixon's St. Louis Stadium Taskforce, announced plans for an outdoor stadium on the Mississippi riverfront, with a price tag of more than $1 billion. Their plan called for public and private money, with the city contributing about $150 million by extending the bonds used to build the Rams current home, the Edward Jones Dome.
In February, Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis announced a joint partnership in Carson, Calif., between Los Angeles and Long Beach. The teams would share the stadium and divide the construction costs in the privately financed stadium.
Since the NFL has made it clear that it wants no more than two teams in Los Angeles, the race to the entertainment capital of the world began.
St. Louis' issues began with the sweetheart deal that lured the Rams from Los Angeles in 1995. That deal included an ambiguous provision that the Edward Jones Dome had to remain in the top 25 percent of NFL stadiums or the Rams could go year-to-year on the lease after 2014. The ambiguity was what the top 25 percent meant - by revenue? By what measure?
In February 2013, a three-person arbitration panel ruled that the stadium had failed to meet that requirement - but also found that the Rams' proposal of $700 million in upgrades was not unreasonable.
After St. Louis balked at Kroenke's proposal, Kroenke, without any further publicly known negotiations with St. Louis, announced his Inglewood plans a year later.
Both the Chargers' and Raiders' attempts to work out a deal with their cities stretch back 15 years. California has said it will not provide public money to fund stadiums for privately owned sports teams, and the state's ever-changing political landscape has complicated the teams' efforts.
Neither San Diego nor Oakland has offered a viable stadium plan for their own cities, and both of their home fields are considered to be worse than the Rams'.
Kroenke's plan appears to be more attractive to the NFL. It taps into the glitz of Hollywood, with a retail and entertainment showcase that could enter the league's regular Super Bowl rotation.