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Team relocations leave cities picking up the pieces

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When the NFL announced the St. Louis Rams were relocating to Los Angeles, it was seen as an outstanding move for the franchise and the NFL. But while they may benefit financially, the relocation is another example of the see-saw relationship between a team and its city.

Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke, who has an estimated $7.5 billion net worth according to Forbes, dreamed of a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium in Inglewood, Calif. and started planning it while the Rams were still in St. Louis. He got what he wanted a year later, convincing NFL owners to move the Rams to Los Angeles.

Kroenke expects to spend over $1.8 billion on the development of the stadium and the area surrounding it, which doesn’t include the $550 million relocation fee he will pay.

The $550 million will be divided up amongst the 31 other team owners in the NFL, a great coup for owners who benefit from the Rams move to Los Angeles. By going to a bigger media market and city, the NFL and team owners should see increased revenue over the coming years.

Meanwhile the city of St. Louis gets nothing. Actually, St. Louis does get left with something. They get to pay nearly $62 million in debt, maintenance and added additional costs over the next decade towards the Edward Jones Dome, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

An empty stadium that will cost the city and its taxpayers money while hundreds of employees of the stadium lose their jobs with their employer gone. So while the NFL and Kroenke make out well financially, the city of St. Louis is left in debt and with more unemployment.

Owners in all the major sports see what’s happening and have been taking advantage of the system for years. They hold cities in a hostage-like position, threatening relocation if city officials don’t improve spending for a new stadium.

Public officials recognize many voters in their city are sports fans who love their local team and the team generally provides some unity and fun for the city. In that situation, city officials are under more pressure to keep local sports fans happy even if it could hurt the city economically.

Owners worth billions of dollars threaten relocation if cities aren’t willing to use public funds to pay for a new stadium and it works. Before the Rams relocated, Los Angeles was the “go-to” name for owners to throw around to cities in relocation threats.

Over the past 20 years, more than $7 billion in taxpayer money has been spent on NFL stadiums, according to the Huffington Post.

These decisions can come at a cost, from the city of Cincinnati having to sell a local hospital after spending $500 million in public funds for a new stadium to Miami-Dade county taking out loans that will cost them over $1.2 billion by 2048 according to The Miami Herald.

There is a system of the wealthy taking advantage of cities and their taxpayers. It starts with the major sports dividing up relocation fees amongst its wealthy, powerful owners and keeping it from the city that is losing jobs, a form of city unity and still paying off debt for an empty stadium.

It’s just another example of the wealthy in power abusing their power and catering rules to help their pocket books. As much as sports fans may love their teams, it might be time for fans to put their foot down and stand against the system.

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Team relocations leave cities picking up the pieces