ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 12: A general view of the Edward Jones Dome prior to the NFL season opener between the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 12 2010 in St. Louis Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)2
On Friday, the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission released a statement that said the St. Louis Rams' decision to relocate one of their home games in each of the next three seasons violated the terms of their lease on the Edward Jones Dome. Early Saturday morning, the Rams released a statement addressing the CVC's claim, the first comment from any team official regarding the matter.
Here is the Rams' statement.
We think that playing in London is great for the Rams and great for St. Louis. We are in talks with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, which is also the region's chief marketing group, about how to make the most of this opportunity. As the CVC said today, this will ‘elevate an awareness of St. Louis on the global stage.' We look forward to having amicable and meaningful dialogue with the CVC on many issues and believe those conversations should remain between the parties.
Many saw the Rams' decision to play in London partly as a tactic in their upcoming negotiations with the CVC over the future of the Dome. The CVC threw out a leverage play of its own noting that their tenant was violating the lease. Now, the Rams are essentially telling the CVC that they know what they're doing, and to bring a favorable offer to the table as a starting point.
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, the CVC must deliver a proposal for upgrading the Dome, putting in line with their interpretation of it being a "top tier" facility. The Rams can present their own plan by May 1, and the two sides can then enter arbitration where the arbiter can reconcile the two offers and make a determination about what constitutes "top tier."
The Rams have the upper hand here. The NFL has a vacancy in the country's second largest media market that they would like to fill, sooner rather than later. There isn't much the CVC can do to fulfill the lease agreement to make the Dome "top tier" short of spending hundreds of millions from the public treasure, which would require the involvement of the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri.
Fireworks start, officially, on Wednesday.