The St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission will go to arbitration on Jan. 14, according to the Post-Dispatch, to decide the fate of the Edward Jones Dome and football as we know it under the Arch. At that point, a panel of three arbiters will decide on a solution for upgrading the facility and satisfying a clause in the lease that says the Dome must be among the "first tier" of league facilities.
The panel will be presented with dueling plans for renovations to the Dome. The CVC pitched a $124 million new paint job in the spring, that many claim would not put the Dome among the "first tier." The Rams countered with a plan of calling for a retractable roof and a total cost estimated to be around $700 million. The arbitration panel can choose between the two plans or devise a compromise solution meeting somewhere in the middle.
All told, the process could take weeks or even months to resolve. The two sides have not met for negotiations since submitting both proposals. The PD cites a source that says such a move is unlikely anyway.
"The one thing I know is that the closer you get to arbitration, the more likely you are to go to arbitration," said the source, who is familiar with both the lease and the arbitration process. "This is November already. It's not like, ‘Let's settle this on the courthouse steps,' because I think they're miscalculating Stan Kroenke. I think his attitude is - you've done nothing to address it or correct it - so we're here. Let's see what an arbitrator decides."
Who pays for the improvements is likely to be a major sticking point. The CVC says that the Rams are responsible for a portion of the improvements, and the initial plan submitted by the Dome's landlord called for the team to fund more than half the bill. The Rams, according to the report, claim otherwise, and it harkens back to something owner Stan Kroenke said at the press conference to introduce Jeff Fisher as head coach:
As I said earlier, I started in St. Louis, in one year from now, that will be 20 years, so I've been around here a long time. Contrary to a lot of reports, I haven't taken a lot of ‘jack' out of the market. I think that's what's reported. I have put a lot of ‘jack' into the market.
Recent stadium projects have blended public and private dollars. With the NFL's G4 stadium loan program, it stands to reason that the CVC won't be on the hook for the total cost of the building. Just how much the league and the Rams kick in is a detail that could emerge through arbitration.
This arbitration process is not by any means the final straw. First of all, both sides can reject the proposal that results. There is one caveat to that: the CVC can accept the plan, thus locking the Rams into the lease through 2025, the original term.
That's not an easy move to make, however, as the arbitration plan could call for more funding than is currently allotted to the Dome from public coffers. City and state officials have vowed that any new public funding would be subject to public approval.