We knew all along, after watching the most recent stadium issue get ugly in Minnesota, that public discourse over the St. Louis Rams' plans for the Edward Jones Dome would eventually go south. If you had odds on things getting ugly after three days, pat your cynical self on the back because you won.
I'm not talking about the media stirring the pot. Stadium politics gives local talk radio something feed the mouth breathers and help to fill the late Spring sports void. Midwestern lifestyle guide St. Louis Magazine added to its collection of pet guides and party pics with this jeremiad claiming bad faith on the part of owner Stan Kroenke, while conveniently glossing over the issues surrounding the dueling LA stadium proposals.
But the first shot from a representative actually involved in the stadium dealings came from Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff, Jeff Rainford.
He was dispatched to urged the CVC to reject the proposal on Monday afternoon, and went one step further the next day by urging Bryan Burwell of the Post-Dispatch, and the media, to let the experts handle the matter.
Burwell wrote about the exchange in Wednesday's Post-Dispatch.
In short, the mayor's aide urged Burwell and the media to stick to sports, claiming that the conventions business was best left to the experts.
Rainford says that the CVC and the city lack the budget to bring in the kind of conventions and events where cities are essentially expected to provide their facilities rent-free. That was in response to Burwell's assertion that a renovated Dome could bring in more convention and event business.
The mayor's spokesperson also added that what was needed is a bill to create a $5 surcharge on sporting event tickets in St. Louis that would help fund events like the NCAA Tournament in the city. Burwell goes on to note that teh CVC did not support as recently as 2010.
Interestingly enough, the city of St. Louis gave the Cardinals a break toward their new stadium by waiving the five percent admissions tax on tickets to those games. That perk is estimated to cost St. Louis $350 million over the life of the deal. Makes you wonder if that money could help the city bring in more conventions and events. Better leave that to the experts to speculate.
Burwell doesn't even mention Rainford's boogeyman of three years of no conventions at the Dome which he says could cost $500 million. Other reports have suggested that the Dome would only be closed for one year, similar to the Vikings' stadium plans, under the specifications of the Rams' counter proposal.
The best advice I can offer is to view this whole process with a healthy does of skepticism on all sides. I don't view the Rams' proposal as a middle finger to the city and the first step toward a return to L.A. I'm also not sure about the relative benefits of spending a hefty among of taxpayer dollars on a Dome that probably isn't the most effective form of economic stimulus for a city getting rapidly outpaced by the Midwest's other metropolitan areas.
If we're talking about motivations in this issue, it's worth pointing out that Mayor Slay is up for election, for his fourth term in office, next year. Having a pricey Dome stadium for a team with a dwindling area fan base makes for an easy straw man, something that might help voters overlook the city's crime problem and a weak economy.
This is going to be a long drawn out process. I would bet now that it will not be resolved by the end of the year when the arbitration process concludes, because there is no precedent anywhere in the country for stadium/arena developments to be a quick and painless process.