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History Repeating Itself: Public Funded Sports Facilities

Now that I’ve lived in St. Louis for more than a quarter century, I’m realizing history is starting to repeat itself. When I moved to St. Louis, we had no NFL team, a couple of years earlier the Football Cardinals moved from St. Louis to Phoenix. I didn’t care. My 5 years of undergraduate studies at the football-obsessed University of Oklahoma didn’t convert me into a fan of the game. Upon moving here I saw locals depressed about the loss of the Football Cardinals — a team that originated in Chicago.

I watched as we built an expensive new stadium in the hopes of getting an expansion team:

Charlotte was awarded the first franchise – the Carolina Panthers – in October 1993. Surprisingly, the naming of the second expansion city was delayed a month. Most pundits speculated that the delay was made to allow St. Louis to shore up its bid. At the time, St. Louis was considered the favorite for the second franchise, with Baltimore’s three bids also considered strong. However, in a surprising move, the NFL owners voted 26–2 in favor of awarding the 30th franchise to Jacksonville. (Wikipedia)

The collective civic spirit sank.  And what to do with a brand new dome?

The current home of the St. Louis Rams was built in a failed big to get an NFL expansion team,
The current home of the St. Louis Rams was built in a failed big to get an NFL expansion team,

During the 1994 season Georgia Frontiere, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams, was having trouble finding a new stadium for her team as the city of Los Angeles and the surrounding area was not willing to have taxpayer money pay for it. At the time, the Rams were playing in Anaheim Stadium, to which the team had moved in 1980 from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and which had required a massive reconstruction in order for the Rams to be able to play in what was originally only intended to be a home for the California Angels. Frontiere, who inherited control of the team following the death of her husband Carroll Rosenbloom in 1979, decided that relocation was the only option and initially considered Baltimore, the city where her husband originally owned the Colts before he traded ownership of the team with Robert Irsay, before deciding on St. Louis as the domed stadium that was originally intended for the stillborn Stallions franchise was nearing completion. The NFL initially was unwilling to allow the move out of Los Angeles, and in fact had voted to reject it, but acquiesced after Frontiere threatened to sue the league. The Rams played their first few home games in Busch Stadium until their new home, which became known as the Trans World Dome, opened on November 12 with a game against the expansion Panthers. (Wikipedia)

To save the political embarrassment of having a costly new facility sitting idle our leaders gave Frontiere a sweet deal to get her to move the team — we guaranteed the new dome would remain in the top 25% of all NFL stadiums at 10 & 20 year marks, on a 30 year agreement. The Rams let us pass at 10 years but at the 20 year point new owner Stan Kroenke opted to go year to year, allowed per the original agreement.

No politician wants to lose, on their watch, a major corporation, sports franchise, etc. Nor do they want a facility costing hundreds of millions sitting empty. Just imagine if we hadn’t lured the Rams here two decades ago — the political fallout would’ve been huge.

Now politicians and our civic leaders are scrambling to cover their asses, allowing them to say they did everything they could to keep the Rams here. I know people get attached to sports teams, but any benefits we receive don’t remotely offset the costs. Not even close.

Giving professional sports owners many, many millions in taxpayer money to build new stadiums has never made sense, but it keeps happening.

Most of us understand this is a scam. Studies have argued repeatedly that there’s no real economic impact from a new stadium. There’s no real economic impact on a city, county or state, that is. The economic impact for a pro sports owner is very real. (Yahoo! Sports)

John Oliver explained it well recently, this is almost 20 minutes but worth it:

Owners of professional sport teams have successfully manipulated region after region to get taxpayers to fund new facilities.

Taxpayers have spent nearly $3 billion on the 16 stadiums that will host NFL games during the season’s opening weekend, according to figures in a new analysis from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a Washington, D.C-based conservative nonprofit group.

All told, 29 of the NFL’s 31 stadiums have received public funds for construction or renovation. In the last two decades, the analysis found, taxpayers across the country have spent nearly $7 billion on stadiums for a league that surpassed $10 billion in revenue last season. (Huffington Post: Taxpayers Have Spent A ‘Staggering’ Amount Of Money On NFL Stadiums)

I’m in favor of using tax revenue to boost our region & economy — a stadium isn’t the best use of a billion dollars.

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” — Edmund Burke

It’s depressing that St. Louis is falling for this again…but I’ve lived here long enough I shouldn’t be surprised.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

St. Louis County Voters Approved Proposition A 5 years Ago Today

Five years ago today St. Louis County voters approved a tax increase to support public transit:

By a wide margin, county voters approved a half-cent increase to the transit sales tax to restore lost bus and Call-A-Ride service and, eventually, expand the reach of mass transit farther into the St. Louis suburbs. (Post-Dispatch)

This ballot victory triggered a previously-approved sales tax increase in the city. Attempts in 1997 & 2008 were rejected by St. Louis County voters.

The 57x I took to Town & Country stopping on Clayton Rd. between Woods Mill & Hwy 141
The 57x MetroBus on Clayton Rd. between Woods Mill & Hwy 141. Click image to view the 57X route & schedule
This image sums up how pedestrians are treated, The bus in the background is heading WB on Chambers.
The #61 MetroBus in the background is heading WB on Chambers at W. Florissant in Dellwood. Click the image to view the #61’s route & schedule.

After the fall 2008 defeat transit advocates approached the 2010 campaign differently, producing outstanding results:

The measure passed by a monstrous 24 point margin. The St. Louis Tea Party focused its energy on defeating the civic project, calling the campaign a test run for defeating Democrats in this fall’s midterm elections. So it’s a setback for them.

But it’s good news for those wanting to get around the St. Louis metro area. The “proposition A” measure will restore bus lines that had been de-funded, pay for more frequent buses, prevent future cuts, and, eventually, expand the reach of transit further into area suburbs.  (Grist)

The greatest support came from north county voters, the highest users of transit in the county.

— Steve Patterson

 

The 1876 City Limits Were So Far Out In The Countryside

From its founding in 1764 the city limits of St. Louis kept expanding as the city grew in population. Each time they annexed land in the rural fields surrounding the city.

The 1860 census recorded 160,773 residents — more than 100% growth from 1850s census figure of 77,860. The 1870 census saw the population nearly double again — to 310,864 (Wikipedia). When St. Louis divorced itself from St. Louis County in 1876 the limits where set far out in the countryside.  The leaders at the time must not have thought we’d reach those limits as quickly as we did, or leapfrog them as happened.

This marker at the St. Louis-Maplewood city limits is where
Entering St. Louis from Maplewood, where Manchester Rd becomes Manchester Ave

Though Maplewood wasn’t incorporated until the 20th century, people like James Sutton settled the area in the early 19th century decades before St. Louis split with St. Louis County.  From Maplewood’s history:

In 1876, the limits of the City of St. Louis were extended to their present location. This limit line shows no consideration for the buildings in Maplewood, but ruthlessly bisects many of them. It cuts off the eastern triangle of the Brownson Hotel and runs right through the middle of the old Maplewood Theater, (now gone) putting the projection booth in Maplewood and the screen in St. Louis.

On one street, however, the limits do not interfere with the house. This is along Limit Avenue which was plotted with half of its width on either side of the limits line (St. Louis on the east and Maplewood on the west).

This divorce bought change to the county left behind:

When the new county was organized, a Maplewood man, Henry L. Sutton, son of James C., was chosen as its chief executive officer, or presiding justice of the county court. The first three meetings of this body were held at the Sutton home on Manchester. Then in 1877, the patriarch of the neighborhood, James C. Sutton died. He left nine children and his land was divided between them. One of the daughters, Mary C. Marshall, seems to have been the first to think of selling her tract for a subdivision, for in 1890, she sold to a company organized by Theophile Papin and Louis H. Tontrup, two St. Louis real estate men, and managed by Robert H. Cornell.

If only we could bring the 1870s leaders into the present day to show them the consequences of their actions. If so, St. Louis would likely  be part of St. Louis County with limits out near the present-day I-270.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

The Streetsblog Network Expands By Adding Southeast US, Ohio, Texas, and St. Louis

January 30, 2015 Featured, Media, STL Region 3 Comments

The Streetsblog Network yesterday expanded into new territory: adding coverage in the Southeast United States, the states of Ohio & Texas, and the St. Louis region.

Streetsblog St. Louis launched yesterday.
Streetsblog St. Louis launched yesterday.

From yesterday’s post announcing the expansion:

A little more than six years ago, we launched the Streetsblog Network as a way for people across the country writing about livable streets, sustainable transportation, and smart growth to band together and share ideas. There are many wonderful things about the Streetsblog Network, but I would put this is at the top of my list: It is both profoundly local, full of people working on the nitty-gritty of street design, transit service, and planning issues in their hometowns, and broadly distributed, with hundreds of members operating in cities all over the nation.

For a long time we’ve been thinking about how to build on these strengths. And today we’re going live with a new way to channel the energy of the Streetsblog Network and broadcast it to the world.

We are launching affiliate sites that combine the work of Streetsblog Network members in four regions: St. Louis, Ohio, Texas, and the Southeast. These sites are based on a different model than our other city-based Streetsblogs with full-time staff. Each Streetsblog affiliate syndicates material from several blogs in its region and runs a daily dose of headlines to satisfy the universal craving for morning news. Have a look. (Doesn’t it blow your mind to see the words “Streetsblog Texas” in a site banner?)

The post continues with a list of blog included for each new area, here’s the St. Louis list:

Streetsblog St. Louis:

I’m honored to have UrbanReviewSTL be included as one of four blogs representing St. Louis! Be sure to check out Streetsblog St. Louis at stl.streetsblog.org. Also visit Streetfilms for excellent videos.

— Steve Patterson

 

NFL/MLS Stadium A Better Fit In St. Clair County Illinois

It was recently suggested by former St. Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl that a new NFL/MLS stadium be built across the river in Illinois. Over the last few years I’ve thought this as well, regular reader & prolific commenter “JZ71” has mentioned several times building a stadium specifically between the approaches to the MLK & Eads bridges. It would be visible from downtown St. Louis and be located adjacent to an existing MetroLink light rail station. I’ve thought that was too tight but knew there’s lots of vacant land there awaiting new use.

In June I got married at the beautiful Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park — directly across from the Arch — maybe South of there? Or to the North of the MLK bridge approach? Looking at maps and serial images only gets you so far, so Saturday afternoon I drove around checking out the Metro East riverfront/bottoms.

I crossed the river on the Eads Bridge since it was direct, I quickly ruled out the land to the South of the Martin Memorial/geyser because of access issues and future CityArchRiver plans, wildlife, etc. So then I looked at the space between the Eads & MLK approaches — as I suspected it appears way too tight for a stadium with enough buffer to keep the bridges open game days.

Looking South on Front St with the MLK in the foreground, the Eads in the background, and the Arch to the right
Looking South on Front St with the MLK in the foreground, the Eads in the background, and the Arch to the right
Looking East from Front St, the MLK approach is to the left just out of view, the Eads approach on the right
Looking East from Front St, the MLK approach is to the left just out of view, the Eads approach on the right. Great location for a hotel(s) if a stadium were built to the North of the MLK
Just North of the MLK bridge approach
Just North of the MLK bridge approach, the land on the right is mostly vacant of structures
Looking East at a gravel road.  More on this later in this post.
Looking East at a gravel road. More on this later in this post.
East St. Louis Police shooting range head
East St. Louis Police shooting range head
Presumably this 80 year old pumping station is still operational
Presumably this 80 year old pumping station is still operational
Very quickly the new SMVMB is in view past the levee
Very quickly the new SMVMB is in view past the levee
Industry at the end of the road, no access to I-70 or the new bridge -- yet.
Industry at the end of the road, no access to I-70 or the new bridge — yet.
Looking back at St. Louis across the Mississippi River
Looking back at St. Louis across the Mississippi River

So access here kinda sucks too — but not for long. Since it opened in February 2014 I’ve driven across the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge (I-70) many times, but this weekend was my first seeing how it connected to IL Route 3. Later this year will mark 25 years I’ve lived in St. Louis, I know the region pretty well, including the Metro East — but the new I-70 approach to the new bridge is very different than it has been. Connectivity is greatly improved and will get better.

The new I-70/Route 3 interchange has the start of a road heading toward the East St. Louis riverfront
The new I-70/Route 3 interchange has the start of a road heading toward the East St. Louis riverfront
It's unfinished but will soon provide easy access to the Casino Queen, Malcolm Martin Memorial, and anything else built here.
It’s unfinished but will soon provide easy access to the Casino Queen, Malcolm Martin Memorial, and anything else built here.
The blue line marks where the road will continue. Image from the New Bridge gallery, click to view.
The blue line marks where the road will continue. Image from the New Bridge gallery, click to view.
Aerial shows how the new I-70/iL Route 3 interchange will connect to Riverpark Dr  leading Front St.
Aerial shows how the new I-70/iL Route 3 interchange will connect to Riverpark Dr leading Front St. Three potential sites here, the bottom left has good visibility from downtown St. Louis and the other two from the new I-70.

This is within St. Clair County, an analysis of future MetroLink light rail expansion into neighboring Madison County four of seven possible alignments would pass by to the East along the Route 3 corridor.  Additionally transportation officials are working to improve Amtrak speeds between Alton & St. Louis while also considering a new stop in St. Clair County. No historic buildings/districts razed, fewer/no businesses/residents displaced.

A new NFL/MLS stadium, light rail expansion into Madison County, and an Amtrak stop could transform this area and further connect the St. Louis region. Sorry Gov Nixon, Illinois make much more sense!

— Steve Patterson

 

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