The Edward Jones Dome needs money, specifically $40 million over the next 15 years to fund a basic level of upkeep and maintenance, according to the Post-Dispatch. If that doesn't happen, the Dome will be $62 million in debt in 15 years, at which point the St. Louis Rams will likely be playing in another venue and possibly another city.
The Rams are not the Dome's only tenant, just its most prominent one. The Dome itself wouldn't exist if it weren't for the Rams moving from L.A. to St. Louis, and the team wouldn't have moved in the first place if former Rams money czar John Shaw hadn't extracted pot o' gold deal from the city, county and state governments.
Missouri taxpayers, including many who spend their Sundays wearing Chiefs gear, kick in $12 million a year for the Dome. The city of St. Louis and the county contribute $6 million apiece. That money goes toward upkeep and paying off the bond debt used to finance construction.
$4 million of that goes to maintenance. And at that rate, the Dome will be $62 million in the hole in 15 years. They need an estimated $5 million to $9 million per year over that span to keep the Dome in working order.
The St. Louis Rams pay $250,000 per year to rent the Dome and another $250,000 annually to help cover the costs of running the facility on game day. Oh, and don't forget about that lease that lets the Rams out of their agreement if the Dome isn't among the top 25 percent of NFL stadiums in terms of quality. Yeah, Shaw got the team a pretty sweetheart deal.
The Rams have helped fund improvements to the Dome in past, and the PD article notes that the team would be "open" to doing so again. As part of the arbitration process over the Rams' lease on the Dome, the team presented a renovation plan that would cost an estimated $700 million or more to implement. That plan did not include details on how that would be paid for, and it was rejected by the Convention and Visitors Commission.
All this is happening with the very real possibility that the Rams won't be playing in the Dome much longer, not with their lease set to make them a free agent after 2014. Why fix up the Dome if the team that it was built for isn't going to play there?
Missouri taxpayers are already on the hook for 10 more years worth of Dome payments, whether the Rams are still there or not. Rams owner Stan Kroenke seems content to let the situation play out, using his leverage to get another stadium deal, financed at least in part by public coffers.
The Dome's financial future in and of itself doesn't really offer much to the question of whether or not the Rams will end up staying in St. Louis. But it is an important part of the looming discussion over any future stadium plan needed to keep the team in St. Louis.
The city, county and state committed hundreds of million of dollars to bring the Rams here. Now, the team's billionaire owner -- the six Walton heirs, including Stan Kroenke's wife Ann, have more wealth than 42 percent of American families combined -- will expect more money from the public to keep his team here ... before the old deal to bring his team here is fully paid off.
Oh the irony.
There'll be threats to move the team. It's probably going to get ugly before it gets resolved. Then again, a new stadium means the city would be virtually guaranteed the windfall of hosting a Super Bowl, as long as they agree to the NFL's list of demands which include not paying taxes.
Wherever the Rams end up, we'll always have the Dome we paid to build, even if it's just a decrepit ruin in the middle of downtown St. Louis.