St. Louis city council members met Tuesday to consider the city's share of funding for a new football stadium - a $150 million commitment likely to make or break the effort to keep the NFL in St. Louis.
The funding would help pay for a $1 billion stadium along the Mississippi River, north of the Gateway Arch, to either retain the Rams or attract a new team if owner Stan Kroenke moves the franchise to Los Angeles.
The city's Board of Aldermen, by a 17-10 vote, later Tuesday advanced the measure to a final vote expected Friday, when at least 15 votes would be needed for passage.
The league has set a Dec. 30 deadline for the stadium plan to be finalized. NFL owners meet Jan. 12-13 in Houston to consider proposals from three teams seeking relocation to Los Angeles - the Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.
Up to two of the teams could move as early as next season. Kroenke wants to move the Rams to a new $1.8 billion stadium in Inglewood, California. The Raiders and Chargers have proposed a joint venture in which they would share a stadium in Carson, California.
Also Tuesday, the Missouri Development Finance Board voted 9-1 to approve a $3 million credit line for loans related to design and development of the stadium plan. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2016, was the only board member to vote against it.
"This board can ignore public opinion for a while; it cannot ignore public opinion forever," Kinder said.
He is among many critics who question why taxpayers are being asked again to pay for a St. Louis football stadium. The Edward Jones Dome opened 20 years ago, built entirely with taxpayer money. The dome is now considered outdated by NFL standards.
Last month, Republican Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson sent Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon a list of 120 House members opposed to funding the stadium. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that some protesters were at the hearing Tuesday, and a few were removed for outbursts during the debate.
Stadium task force co-chairman David Peacock has said the new stadium will create jobs, revitalize a dilapidated area of downtown St. Louis and help the city retain its image by keeping the NFL. Major League Soccer officials have also expressed interest in perhaps expanding to St. Louis if the new stadium is built.
The funding proposal before aldermen was amended just prior to the meeting, increasing the NFL commitment toward to project to $300 million from $200 million. In exchange, the task force tentatively agreed to rebate city ticket taxes back to the team.
The funding plan also calls for $250 million from the team owner, $160 million in fan seat licenses, and the rest of the money from the state, either through tax credits or bonds.