A panel of arbitrators decided in favor of the St. Louis Rams' plan for renovations to the Edward Jones Dome, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.
The Convention and Visitors Commission, the caretakers of the publicly owned facility, have 30 days to decide whether or not to accept the Rams' plan, which called for an estimated $700 million in renovations. That plan included a retractable roof and an overhaul of one entire side of the building. If the CVC declines that plan, then the Rams would go to a year-by-year lease on the Dome on March 15, 2015, after the 2014 season. At that point, the team would be free to stay or go, depending on the circumstances.
The CVC is likely to decline the arbitrators' decision. That largely has to do with the funding aspect of a $700 million renovation. The team's plans for renovation reportedly did not include a breakdown of how and who would pay for that. The CVC is bound to seek public approval before applying any additional funding to the Dome, and additional public funding would almost certainly be needed for such an upgrade.
A much smaller plan, with a price tag under $200 million, was presented by the CVC. That one called for more modest adjustments to the Dome, and called for the Rams to play more than half the costs. Arbitrators did not feel as though that plan got the Dome up to "first tier" standards.
So what happens now?
The Rams and the CVC can go on seeking a solution to the Dome ahead of that March 2015 deadline that lets the Rams out of their lease. Again, the funding is likely to be the holdup on any such deal given the constraints on the CVC.
An out on the Dome lease, would also free up Rams owner Stan Kroekne to look for a new home for his team. Several outlets have floated the notion that Kroenke would prefer to own his own place somewhere else, either inside the city limits or in the suburban/exurban ring, places like the old Chrysler plant in Fenton or other large tracts of land are also possibilities. However, that's strictly a rumor at this point.
It also opens the possibility of a move elsewhere, somewhere further away, somewhere like Los Angeles. Given the team's recent commitment to fans and the city, that does seem like a stretch. More importantly, Roger Goodell and the NFL have been notoriously reticent about teams packing up for other destinations, since taking a big PR hit when Art Modell turned the Browns into the Ravens.
A good precedent to keep your eye on here is what happened in Minnesota. After stadium plans were scrapped at the last minute by the state legislature, Goodell flew in for some last minute lobbying that ultimately helped get a deal done, with a public commitment of about 50 percent.
This is, essentially, Act II of the Rams' stadium saga. The attention now turns to finding a workable solution for big upgrade or a new home. Paying for that new solution will be the biggest part of the story. Recent trends in the NFL, especially in smaller markets like St. Louis, have seen teams ask for significant public contributions from states and municipalities.
A reminder, these things tend to get messy at times, with politicians flexing and team owners using their leverage. This is unlikely to be resolved any time in the next two years, even as the debate heats up. Try to keep a level head about the whole thing.
UPDATE: Rams VP Kevin Demoff released a statement following the news:
"The St. Louis Rams are pleased with the Arbitrators' First-Tier award. The independent decision acknowledges that significant improvements are required to put the Edward Jones Dome on equal standing with most National Football League stadiums and to enhance the fan experience. The Rams are hopeful that the Convention and Visitors' Commission will implement the arbitrators' decision and work toward achieving First-Tier status by the March 1, 2015 measuring date as set forth in the parties' lease."