The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission and the St. Louis Rams are going to arbitration to determine a reasonable plan for making the Edward Jones Dome a "first tier" facility and taking steps to ensure the future of professional football in the city. The CVC voted on Thursday, according to the Post-Dispatch, to enter arbitration with the team.
The move was expected following the Rams' presentation of a $700 million plan to upgrade the Dome. Their vision differed significantly from the $124 million plan presented by the CVC. Each side rejected the other's plans, also expected, and had a two-week window to negotiate the more than $500 million difference. According to the PD report, it took the CVC less than half an hour to give the go ahead for arbitration.
A panel of three arbitrators will listen to each side present their case for why their plan represents a true "first tier" renovation to the Dome. Arbiters can then pick one of the two or, more likely, reconcile a compromise plan that the two sides can take or leave.
The CVC has 60 days to decide whether to accept or reject the final plan. If they do give it the green light, it locks the Rams into their lease through 2025. Accepting the plan will not be so easy. Given the difference in the competing visions, the arbitration plan is still likely to be a pricey one, dependent on public dollars above and beyond what are already being spent.
If the CVC rejects the plan, the Rams are on track to go to a year-to-year lease in 2015, freeing them up to find another home if they so desire. But it's not that easy.
Even if the arbitration process does not produce an agreement at the end of the year, the two sides have until March 2015 to get something done. Time and again we have seen similar situations go right down to the wire, as the league gets more desperate in the face of economic disruption of having a team move as well as the other parties involved. It went right down to the wire, within hours, in Minnesota, and don't be surprised if the same thing happens in Missouri. Don't panic either.