On Monday, May 14, the St. Louis Rams’ plan for renovation of the Edward Jones Dome was released to the public. It wasn’t a willing disclosure: The Rams refused to divulge their ideas until Missouri’s attorney general, Chris Koster, ordered that their plan be opened to the public following numerous media requests to review the information.
In any event, the Rams have proposed a plan to upgrade the Jones Dome at a cost of more than $700 million. Their recommendations were made in response to an earlier document submitted by the Convention and Visitors Commission to the tune of about $125 million, with the Rams to be responsible for more than 50 percent of the funding. There is no indication as to how the Rams’ recommendations would be financed.
So, the ongoing negotiations between the Rams and the CVC continue. The CVC has until June 1 to reply to the Rams’ proposal, which the CVC received on May 1, two weeks before it was revealed to the public. If no agreement is reached by June 15, arbitration will begin and could continue until the end of the year.
There are many, many points to resolve regarding a renovated stadium. At what price does it become untenable for the St. Louis region to support a professional football franchise? After all, taxpayers are still paying on a $720 million plan to fund the construction of the Dome, which opened in 1995.
Is it prudent to add more debt in a metropolitan area where the unemployment rate is more than 8 percent? Where home foreclosures continue at a depressing rate? Where some economic forecasts indicate that St. Louis is being bypassed in the 21st century?
Sure, a renovated Dome would look great. Yes, it could possibly host Super Bowls, NCAA Final Four basketball championships and larger conventions. But, don’t forget, the Dome would be closed to conventions entirely during the two years or so of its reconstruction. Complications abound.
The National Football League now has a policy that allows its teams to borrow money from the league at a very low interest rate. It’s reasonable to assume that a final Jones Dome plan would have the Rams paying for some of the improvements. We just don’t know how much yet.
Negotiations will likely continue through the arbitration process. By early 2013 we should have a pretty good idea of what it will cost to keep the Rams in St. Louis. But, regardless of whether you’re a strong proponent of an improved stadium or fiercely fight against any additional taxpayer burden, ask yourself this question: What price glory to have an NFL team?
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