Thursday, March 1, marks the latest milestone in the ongoing lease negotiations between the St. Louis Rams and the city's Convention and Visitors Commission. Thursday is the deadline for the Rams to either accept or reject the CVC proposal presented on Feb. 1. Though anything could happen, it is highly unlikely that the Rams will accept the CVC offer as is.
The CVC delivered a $124 million proposal to renovated the Edward Jones Dome. That proposal included several fixes for improving the fan experience at the Dome, including more natural light, improved spaces around the Dome, more suites and club seats and a giant video board to rival the one hanging in Cowboys Stadium.
The addition of more club seats and suites could bring in an estimated $2.6 million in additional revenue, money that does not have to be piped back in and divvied up through the league's revenue sharing plan. It would still leave the Rams among the lowest earners in the league for premium seating, according to a 2011 stadium study conducted by the City of Los Angeles and AEG.
Another detail Rams owner Stan Kroenke might frown upon is the price tag. The CVC has proposed that the Rams pay 52 percent of the costs, some $62 million, for the renovation plan.
The Rams have until May 1 to submit their own proposal for Dome renovations. If the two sides cannot agree on a plan before June 15, they head to arbitration. Arbitration must be complete by the end of the calendar year. Any proposal that includes a large public price tag would stir some debate in state and city still struggling with the fallout from the recession. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal examined the problems with public funding for stadiums in smaller markets and the debatable economic impact of having the NFL in town.
The stadium negotiations are playing out against an interesting backdrop.
- A deal to move one Rams' home game in each of the next three seasons to London required some negotiations to avoid legal problems with the lease. The deal with the CVC only covers the 2012 London game.
- Kroenke is one of seven finalists to purchase the Los Angeles Dogers. Many see his involvement for the MLB franchise as an indicator that he does plan to move the Rams to LA. Owning the Rams in St. Louis while owning the Dodgers in LA would put him in violation of the NFL's cross-ownership rule.
- Kroenke's real estate company, THF Realty, is partnering with hotelier Bob O'Loughlin for the redevelopment of Union Station in downtown St. Louis. O'Loughlin is also the chairman of the CVC and the lead negotiator in the Dome talks.
- The city is also ready to study getting rid of the one-mile elevated stretch of I-70, the part that runs right by the Edward Jones Dome. Any resulting actions taken as a result of that study could factor into the Dome's future.
In the meantime, the Rams are telling the public that they envision the Dome as a centerpiece of economic development for the city, a place that can host concerts, Final Four events and even the Super Bowl. Of course, they are leaving the door open for all possibilities, even while publicly stating the desire to stay in St. Louis.