How much is too much? That could be one of the more important questions elected officials and taxpayers have to ask themselves in the months ahead as the St. Louis Rams and the city's Convention and Visitors Commission bargain over an upgrade to the Edward Jones Dome. The CVC started the bidding with a $124 million offer. The Rams one-upped them with an offer that reportedly contains a retractable roof on the Dome. Bryan Burwell of the Post Dispatch estimates the high-end of the Dome renovation price tag to be $450 million.
Ultimately the price tag could be in the $200 to $450 million range, but to get the most leverage out of the NFL's G4 stadium loan program. The most devilish of details will be Stan Kroenke and the Rams' final contribution.
If Kroenke puts in $150 million, G4 will give him a $75 million loan. If he puts in $200 million, he only gets $50 million on credit from the league. Huh? The NFL doesn't want its owners digging deep into their pockets to pay for stadiums. In return, the league provides the economic benefits of having a team and endless list of events at those stadiums that put a little extra "jack" in the local economy. Or so it's assumed. The real economic benefits of pro sports teams and their facilities are subject to much debate.
Regardless, there's a long way to go between here and packing the trucks for Los Angeles.
The Dome negotiations are a process, and they will be a lengthy process. It would be great if the Rams and CVC got this settled in arbitration by year's end. I'm not betting on that. What's more likely is a drawn out process, a la Minnesota. This thing may not be resolved until 2015, the real deadline to circle on your calendar.
What we've seen in the Minnesota fight, and every other stadium fight that includes the Rams' efforts to leave L.A., is that the league does not prefer their teams to move. In fact, they will go to great lengths to prevent it. Roger Goodell hastily assembled a lobbying trip to Minneapolis when hours after a House committee voted down a stadium bill. I was part of a group of media that interviewed Goodell the day the draft started, and it was clear that the night's activities were not at the top of his mind. He had been on the phone with the Minnesota Governor and others scrambling to keep the ball moving down the field.
The NFL doesn't like disruption, and teams relocating are disruption. That's not to say it can't happen. In fact, I think every Rams fan in St. Louis should acknowledged the very real possibility that it could happen ... I just wouldn't lose any sleep over it.
Despite all the hot air leaked out of the Minnesota State Capital over the last few weeks. A billion dollar stadium deal still got done. And despite threats from the team that they would not pay a penny more than the original plan called for, they relented to a modest compromise. And ditto for the state legislature.
Another important point to remember when this fight reaches the political level: legislative bodies don't act unless they have to, not until the absolute last moment of consequence. It happens every year over the budget at every level of government. It happened in Minnesota over the stadium fight, and it will happen in Missouri when it reaches the absolute last minute in 2015.
Again, that's not to say when it goes to the brink it won't fall off the edge. The economic and political climate will change between now and then, and we don't have the luxury of knowing what those changes will be, even if it looks like Missouri will continue its descent into a place resembling the post-war South.
I'm rambling. But the point I'll leave you with, and something to remember when the breathless panic sweeps through talk radio and Midwestern lifestyle magazines with the release of the Dome plan on Monday, we're only in the second quarter of this thing.