April 10, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) The St. Louis Regional Complex and Sports Authority filed a lawsuit Friday asking a court to clarify whether the city of St. Louis can contribute tax money for a new NFL stadium without a public vote.

The lawsuit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court claims that a 2002 city ordinance is ''overly broad, vague and ambiguous.'' It asks that a judge clarify whether plans for a new riverfront stadium can move forward without a vote by city residents.

Mayor Francis Slay, in a statement, said the ordinance will be defended, but ''whatever the outcome, we will follow the law.''

The St. Louis Rams play in the Edward Jones Dome, a stadium deemed inadequate by the team. Owner Stan Kroenke is part of a joint venture planning a new stadium in suburban Los Angeles, a move that could lead the Rams to leave St. Louis as early as next year.

Gov. Jay Nixon last year appointed attorney Robert Blitz and former Anheuser-Busch President David Peacock to develop a new stadium plan. Their proposal, for an open-air stadium along the Mississippi River, could cost up to $985 million.

Bonds paying for the dome, which opened in 1995, are still being paid off. The plan for the new stadium calls for extending that bond debt, which could provide up to $350 million. Kroenke and the NFL would also be asked to help pay for the new stadium. Personal seat licenses would provide up to $130 million of the cost.

Peacock, in a statement, said he doesn't believe that a public vote is required to extend the bonds.

''However, to finalize our proposal in the accelerated timeframe required by the NFL, it's important to obtain legal clarity quickly,'' Peacock said.

Nixon agreed. He said Peacock and Blitz have identified ''a path forward that would impose no new burdens on taxpayers.'' Nixon, in a conference call with reporters, stressed the value of pro football to Missouri.

''I think it's important for us to maintain a state that has an NFL franchise in two cities,'' Nixon said, adding a reference to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Earlier this week, a Saint Louis University law professor threatened to file suit if city tax dollars are used for the stadium, unless approved by voters.

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AP reporter Marie French in Jefferson City, Missouri, contributed to this report.

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