By Dave Spence
As the continued saga of the Rams future home continues to evolve it is important that we continue to deal with the facts. Many politicians have used this situation as a way to get headlines and make sure everyone knows they are the most conservative person in the state. That posture will get you primary votes but not move a city forward.
Meanwhile, we have an image problem in our region. Obviously, many hours of footage on international news has not enhanced our reputation. We have two large projects in front of us that could be this generation’s version of the Arch being built in the mid sixties. The NGA project on the North Side and the new stadium would be a combined $2.8 billion of new construction. We can either bicker amongst ourselves or we can go on offense and nab both projects. Our region and our state like to play defense and it is simply killing any growth. We have a lack of construction cranes and new projects in our area outside of Universities and Hospitals. We are the equivalent of a third generation company that wants all the dividends and the profits but is unwilling to reinvest in what made them successful. Our grandparent’s generation invested in the Arch and that became our identity worldwide. We have the ability to create that same buzz and regain some semblance of momentum back in St. Louis. The people that are not happy unless they are unhappy will never get this thought process.
Stanley Enos Kroenke (named for Enos Slaughter of the Cardinals and not Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers) is using our bickering and posturing as a means to move the Rams to Los Angeles. He is all about real estate and he sees the ability to double dip on the megaplex he is planning around a stadium. He would enhance the value of his franchise to around $2.8 Billion from an estimated $1.3 billion in St. Louis. In theory, who would not want to do that? The problem is he bought the St. Louis Rams and promised when he outbid Shad Kahn that he would invest his time and resources to be a great owner. For a kid from Cole Camp, Missouri Kroenke worked hard, married well and put developments all across our state. It looked and sounded like the real deal. Unfortunately, he is not the real deal and does nothing to promote the team or even give any attention to any one of the strained but loyal fans. Owning a sports franchise is about nurturing a fan base, making them feel that you have the same passion as they do about your team. He has ostracized most fans, sponsors and the community as a whole. He has simply gone from a Missouri kid to an asset acquiring machine that has bought four sports franchises, media assets, a large trove of commercial real estate, apartments, ranches and a winery. How much more does one person need? He is turning his back on the very people that helped him get his initial wealth by frequenting his Wal Mart based developments. Heck, I was even a loyal customer of his clothing store, Ladigo London in Columbia during the Saturday Night Fever days of the 70’s. Is there any reciprocal loyalty left in his world?
The stadium is an often criticized project. Here is the simple question-If it did not increase your taxes one penny to keep the Rams here would you be in favor of the stadium? The answer is yes. The revenue stream is already in place to pay for the bonds that we would extend. The additional income taxes paid by visiting teams and hotel visitors pay the bills. Some make the argument that no public money should be used. I get it but let’s talk about the facts. We offered Boeing billions to move here and we give incentives for growth to many companies throughout our state. We continue to waste dollars of tax credits by being inefficient and having too many people take cuts of them. Why would we squawk about something that is self-funding? My point is this, let’s get this done. Let’s force Stan Kroenke to sell to local ownership by having a complete package in front of the NFL and them saying no to his relocation request. The obvious answer is for him to buy the Oakland Raiders and do a joint venture with them and the San Diego Chargers. We have been tortured with NFL team owners in St. Louis. Let’s get an owner that knows customer service, winning and being a part of the community. An NFL team won’t solve all of our ills but a continued lack of growth and a deteriorating image will deepen our problems. The Blues and Cardinals get it so let’s get the third leg in the stool as the owners of the Rams. There is local interest, there is an owner out there with the same passion as St. Louis sports fans and there will be sellouts again for the Rams. There is nothing going on with support that a few more wins and an engaged owner who cares would not solve in one season. We have a tendency to get in our own way in our state. We need a thriving St. Louis to have a healthy, prosperous state. We have a one-time chance in our city and our region to be relevant and regain our civic pride. Let’s not waste it with political rhetoric and lack of vision. I for one am ready to build our next Gateway Arch.