Keeping the Rams in St. Louis - Ingles

The public agency that manages the Edward Jones Dome proposed a $124 million overhaul of the 16-year-old facility, while St. Louis city and county officials stressed that no new public money would go to the team without voter approval.

The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission delivered the plan to the St. Louis Rams, meeting a deadline of today and detailing improvements officials argue would make the stadium one of the best in pro football. The proposal asks the Rams to pay for slightly more than half the cost.

If accepted by the Rams, the CVC plan would:

• Hang a 96-foot wide and 26-foot high scoreboard over midfield that should give fans clear views of replays, scores and stats and not interfere with game play.

• Build a new, three-story structure on Baer Plaza that would be connected to the Dome via a bridge over Broadway. It would include a 20,000 square-foot lobby, a rooftop beer garden and a new entrance for fans headed to Dome's club seats and luxury suites.

• Install large glazed window panels that would allow more natural light inside the Dome, which critics have complained is too dark.

• Replace about 1,800 existing seats and four suites with 1,500 new club seats.

• Put retractable bollards on Broadway that would let CVC shut down the street to vehicle traffic and making it safer for fans to enter and leave the Dome. The CVC said this change also would address NFL concerns that the milling crowds outside of the Dome could be a terrorist target.

Also in the plan are aesthetic improvements to entrances, stairwells and corridors; updated locker rooms for cheerleaders and officials; and replacing the Dome's outdoor smoking area with a plaza that CVC President Kathleen "Kitty" Ratcliffe described as "kind of a tailgate area without the cars."

Kevin Demoff, executive vice president of football operations for the Rams, confirmed that the team had gotten the CVC proposal.

"The lease provides certain terms, a timeline and process for this matter," Demoff said. "We are reviewing the proposal and look forward to responding accordingly."

As the deadline for new negotiations approached, many have speculated that the Rams could relocate back to Los Angeles, where an effort to build a football stadium is well under way. Those worries were heightened again by recent news that Rams owner Stan Kroenke put in a bid to buy baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers.

A Missouri native, Kroenke made his fortune as a real estate developer. His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke, is the daughter of James "Bud" Walton, a co-founder of Wal-Mart. In addition to the Rams, Kroenke's sports holdings include professional basketball, hockey and soccer teams in Denver, as well as an English soccer team, the London-based Arsenal Football Club.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay endorsed the plan this afternoon, but said he has no plans to lobby Kroenke personally. He said he believes the proposal satisfies requirements in the lease that the stadium meets the "first-tier" standard in 15 listed categories.

"I've seen it. I've read it I think it's a very strong proposal that meets the requirements of the lease, which are to bring the components of the stadium that are listed in the lease up to top tier," Slay said. "We're just waiting to hear back from the Rams."

Mike Jones, a senior policy advisor for St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, said: "We're meeting our first requirement in the lease in a credible way."

Under the plan, the Rams would fund about 52 percent of the improvements. Ratcliffe said that figure wasn't picked at random — it is the average contribution by NFL teams in recent new stadium construction and renovation projects.

The plan doesn't identify the source of the rest of money, nearly $60 million. Ratcliffe indicated that her agency would likely turn to the Dome's owner — the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority — or the three so-called government "sponsors" that paid to build the Dome.

The CVC did not make public a financial plan that the lease required it give to the Rams today.

Jeff Rainford, Slay's chief of staff, and Jones said their bosses won't direct any new public money to the Dome without voter approval. Rainford said a vote of the people also would be needed to direct city amusement tax generated at the Dome — about $1.5 million per season — towards paying for the improvements.

The Dome originally was financed with $256 million in revenue bonds, and the repayment of that 30-year debt will be $720 million. Every year, Missouri spends $12 million to pay off the debt, and St. Louis and St. Louis County each pay $6 million annually.

Ratcliffe, who discussed the plan during a 45-minute interview Wednesday, stressed that the CVC has made a variety of improvements to the Dome over the years, and that many of the building's features already are "first tier," a standard that the Rams' lease of the Dome defines as being superior to three-quarters of all NFL venues.

The 30-year lease keep the Rams at the Dome through 2025, but it contains an escape clause that would let the team terminate the agreement if the Dome isn't a "first-tier" facility in 2015. Today was the deadline for the CVC to present the Rams with an improvement plan for how it intends to meet that standard.

Ratcliffe said the first-tier standard is not impossible to achieve, in part because CVC already has spent millions on improvements to the playing field, scoreboards, lighting and concession areas. "If we were starting with a 1995 building that hadn't been updated, first tier would have been a monumental task," she said. "But we start with a building that has been well maintained and improved over the last 16 years."

The Rams have until March 1 to accept or reject the CVC proposal, and until May 1 to make a counteroffer. The two sides would go into arbitration if a deal isn't struck by June 15. Without an agreement, the Rams would be free to relocate after March 1, 2015.

"We hope they're going to turn around in 30 days and say they love it," Ratcliffe said. "But we expect there to be changes."

Ratcliffe said there are logistical problems with some improvements fans might want, such as the popular notion that the Dome's roof should be removed or replaced with a retractable one.

"The players would be swimming, not running," Ratcliffe said, noting that the Dome was not built to drain rainwater.

(source St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Posted by Necesitamos Mas Football on 13:05. Filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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