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Courts will likely decide the fate of an NFL stadium in St. Louis

Saint Louis, Mo. — After a few hearings, claims and counterclaims, and several weeks of back-and-fourth in court and the press, Missouri officials are no closer to agreeing on a plan to approve and build a new NFL stadium in St. Louis that planners say will cost almost $1 billion.

The initial proposal the new stadium to house a NFL team and serve as an outdoor venue for concerts and events hit road bumps almost immediately. The board that controls the current Edward Jones Dome — the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority — challenged a St. Louis City ordinance in court that would require a public vote before taxpayer dollars are spent on a new stadium project. The RSA argues that the statute is vague and overly broad, as well as in conflict with state law. Last week, the city filed a counterclaim against the RSA, and asked a judge to reaffirm that any new stadium needs a public vote.

But some believe the counterclaim filed by St. Louis officials is smoke and mirrors, arguing that Mayor Francis Slay — an ardent supporter of building a new stadium — and his legal team have mounted a weak legal challenge in order to get a ruling favorable for the RSA’s plan to use existing authority to issue bonds for a new stadium. Should a St. Louis Circuit judge rule in favor of the RSA, it might put an end to the other legal challenges facing the proposed project.

Only a few weeks ago, the RSA and even Gov. Jay Nixon, whose three-man task force designed and presented the initial proposal earlier this spring, found themselves named as defendants in a second lawsuit from Missouri lawmakers. Championed by Sen. Rob Schaaf and Rep. Jay Barnes, both Republicans, the suit alleges that the RSA and Nixon have already exceeded their statutory authority by spending money on the planning process for the new stadium and claims that the proposed plan violates numerous elements of existing law.

A hearing over the public vote has been moved and postponed as the case is now on it’s third judge, with another hearing scheduled at the end of June, while a formal hearing on the second suit is expected soon.

Late last week, Attorney General Chris Koster moved to dismiss Gov. Jay Nixon from the suit filed by Shaaf and Barnes. Koster’s brief motion repeatedly takes shots at Schaaf’s use of apostrophes and pronouns, essentially alleging that Schaaf’s lawsuit names the RSA, not Nixon, in taking part of illegal activity, and that Nixon’s name should be removed. Koster’s motion will have a hearing in Cole County later this week.

Barnes has filed a response to Koster’s motion equally dripping with sarcasm and, indeed, not a small amount of humor. Barnes’ response to the motion calls Nixon “bold” and “bald” for arguing he cannot be named in the suit while simultaneously “blustering in public that he’s in control” of the process. Barnes also filed an amended petition in Cole County Circuit court.

With at least two lawsuits, one countersuit, a host of judge shifts, legal wrangling, rescheduling’s and motions, all eyes remain on the clock as the Rams inch closer to the end of their lease in the Dome. The future of an NFL team in St. Louis may be decided in a courtroom long before it reaches the ballot box or the halls of NFL headquarters.