Vertical Integration: The Rams, The Dome & The Union Station Redevelopment Project

Potentially renovating the Edward Jones Dome is not the only downtown St. Louis development project that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke has his hands in at the moment. The St. Louis Business Journals reported on Friday that THF Realty, Kroenke's company, and hotelier Bob O'Louglin are said to be leading the way for the redevelopment of Union Station.

So what does for the future of the Edward Jones Dome and its tenant?

Nothing, at least not directly, but you could extrapolate a positive sign that Kroenke sees the redevelopment of downtown St. Louis as a profitable venture, for both his real estate interests and his football operation.

To give our out of town readers a little context, historic Union Station sits on the western part of the city's downtown, not a bad walk at all from the Ed Jones Dome. The rails are silent now, and Union Station was reinvented as a retail complex in the 1980s. It has a 539-room Marriott hotel that makes money, but the retail portion has fallen on hard times.

The complex was put up for sale last year.

THF Realty is Kroenke's day job. Based out of St. Louis, THF builds retail complexes from Colorado to New York. Many of those developments are anchored by big box retailers, like Wal Mart, a company he has a direct connection to via his wife, Ann Walton Kroenke.

O'Loughlin is the Chairman of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission. He is also the lead negotiator for the CVC in the Dome lease negotiations with the Rams.

Breathing new life into Union Station and downtown St. Louis fits nicely with the vision articulated by the Rams to have a renovated Dome capable of hosting year-round events, Final Fours, concerts, Super Bowls, etc. An upgraded Dome capable of hosting those kind of events could be a golden goose for the Rams and their owner.

A redeveloped Union Station, owned by Kroeke's other company, makes a very nice financial complement to that. A place for people to stay, eat out, and spend money while they take in one of those events at the renovated Edward Jones Dome. Vertical integration.

For all the talk about leverage in playing games in London or an NFL-ready Los Angeles, this might be a more useful leverage move for Kroenke in the Dome negotiations. If Kroenke is pushing downtown development, it ups the incentive to get more out of the public for more substantial upgrades to the Dome.

The Dome lease negotiations are still in their opening rounds, with at least three quarters left to play. The outcome of those talks is still to be determined, and nothing should be ruled out. Nothing. However, Kroenke's direct investment in downtown, in Union Station, would be far more lucrative if the Rams stick around in a significantly upgraded Dome.

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