What To Expect In The Rams Dome Negotiations

It's D-Day, which in this case refers to Dome Day, Feb. 1, the day that the CVC delivers their (maybe) bold vision for the future of the Edward Jones Dome to the St. Louis Rams. Will it be enough to satisfy the Rams? Probably not initially, but we'll see where the process goes from here.

What should we expect?

There is no straight line between today and the the ultimate question of whether or not the Rams stay in St. Louis. The CVC presents its offer. The Rams have until March 1 to counter, and the two sides can go to arbitration to hammer out an agreement, if they so choose. All this is playing out against a backdrop of the team committed to dumping home games for London and Stan Kroenke, the team's owner, trying to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Both the London and the Dodgers subplots are viable business opportunities for Kroenke. Both moves are not-so subtle reminders that the Rams have tremendous amounts of a leverage in this process.

What keeps the Rams in St. Louis? Set aside the "top tier" requirement. It's just a trigger in this whole process.

Right now, the Rams already have an incredibly favorable deal on the Dome. For a meager $500,000 each year, the Rams get the Dome and their practice facility at Rams Park. The deal is so favorable that the team even gets the ad revenue inside the Dome. That's the NFL equivalent of living in your parents' basement, with your history degree pinned to the wall,in exchange for mowing the lawn twice a month.

The Rams have made it clear that they want a facility that can host multiple events, not just football games. Their comments have also intimated that they expect the public to pony up for such a facility. Quite frankly, I'd be a little shocked if Kroenke weren't gunning for at least partial ownership of the building, which would be a cash cow untouchable by the league's revenue sharing system.

Everyone assumes that the state and city governments will not kick in the hundreds of million of dollars it will take to modernize the Dome or build a new facility. The economy, the political unpopularity of tax revenues for such an enterprise, etc.

Experts and politicians said the same thing in Minnesota, where the Vikings have had the local population wringing their hands during the final season of their lease on the Metrodome. Political leaders there have softened their stance considerably, and it now looks as though they'll kick in at least a third of the cost for a new facility on the site of the old one.

Never underestimate politicians' fealty to their corporate masters. Forty percent of the people may vote, but campaign contributors are the main constituent for elected leaders of both parties. In the end, I think the city, the state legislature and the governor can't say no to a Missouri native willing to give the city a black eye by pulling out professional football for the second time in a generation. And don't forget, Kroenke helps develop land and buildings for one of the biggest companies in the state and the entire world. Wal-Mart puts a lot more money into campaigns than the small businesses its destroys.

I'm not taking a stand as to whether the public should pony up or not, just telling you to prepare for a likely inevitability.

Count On Downtown, an excellent St. Louis city blog, has a look at some potential changes to the Dome and the surrounding bottle district that could keep the team here.

And the truth is, the Rams do have a point about the presence of such a facility in the status of the city. Indianapolis is hosting a Super Bowl this week. There is no reason St. Louis shouldn't be able to do the same. A single NFL team doesn't raise the profile of a city or put any significant amount of money into the local economy by itself, but the value add of a facility capable of attracting events to the city year round would do that, bringing in everything from Super Bowls to political party conventions.

Is it the responsibility of you and I to pay for that and Stan Kroenke to reap the profits? Sort of a moral gray area, isn't it?

The show starts today, and we'll see what happens. I used to be pretty optimistic about the Rams chances for sticking around. As a cynic, I still am, though for reasons that are probably a scathing indictment of our political system. That said, be prepared for anything to happen, especially the likelihood of this thing getting uglier before it gets resolved one way or another.

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