Dan Dierdorf: The Dome Is No Longer An Option For The Rams

For those in the know, such as Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf, the arbitrator’s decision to side with the Rams’ proposal instead of the CVC came as no surprise.

“The best I was hoping for was the arbitrator finding some middle ground,” Dierdorf said.

But, that didn’t happen.

“They went all the way with the Rams. There’s no way the CVC was going to prevail with what they were offering. The lease just is too specific about being in the top 25%. And when in every other one of those stadiums that are in the top 25% are within a year or two of being built, there was just no way. The writing was on the wall.”

And, by the writing was on the wall, Dierdorf means this: if the Rams are going to playing football in St. Louis seven or eight years from now, they’re going to be doing it in a new stadium.

Friday’s announcement of the arbitrator’s decision meant this: The Dome is no longer a long-term option for the St. Louis Rams.

Understandably, that may be causing panic with Rams’ fans, but Dierdorf doesn’t necessarily view it that way. He says Friday’s announcement was a necessary step.

“At least you know what’s out in front of you. At least you know what you have to do. At least now we’ve reached the stage where we can all come to grips with the fact that remodeling The Dome isn’t an option. That pouring $150 to $300 million isn’t going to fix the problem. At least we know what needs to happen, and why don’t we get busy making that happen?”

So, what is going to make that happen? Well, contrary to what some may think, the CVC isn’t likely to be a part of the discussion.

“You start off with the fact that the CVC isn’t putting any money in. The CVC has no money. The CVC is strictly the landlord (of The Dome), and it’s dependent on tax dollars for its very existence.”

So, where will any money come from?

“The money has to come from the city, the county, and the state. Right now I don’t think there isn’t much of a political appetite for Mayor Slay, Country Executive Dooley, or Governor Nixon to walk out on that extremely thin sheet of ice and want to commit public dollars to the Rams.”

The public doesn’t want to build new stadiums in 2013. Many didn’t want it 20 years ago…much less doing it again. And, if the public doesn’t want something, politicians aren’t going to lose an election over it. So, how will this actually get done?

“The way that NFL stadiums are built now is there’s normally an infusion of private money from the franchise itself, the NFL has a fund where they are able to commit several hundred million dollars to the construction of a new stadium, and then there is going to have to be some public money that has to be spent. How much? That remains to be seen. But whether that’s on infrastructure, tax credits, or a combination of some tax revenue, or whatever it is…yes, there’s going to have to be some public money that’s going to have to be spent to keep the Rams in St. Louis. It would be, in my mind, foolish to adopt the attitude that we’re going to do nothing, and they’ll like it. That would be extremely foolish.”

Dierdorf says while the perception may be that the Rams have all the leverage in the world, both parties need each other. Back in the late 1980’s through the late 1990’s, cities were doing whatever they could to get franchises…in damn near any sport. You don’t see that in 2013.

“This isn’t 20 years ago where cities were lining up to poach somebody else’s NFL team on the promise that, “We’ll build a stadium for you, and why don’t you come on over.” Part of leaving is having some place to go. Right now, I know Los Angeles is mentioned most often, but the NFL has been very up front in saying that they own the Los Angeles market. And it’s not just sitting there for some other NFL franchise to move there. There would have to be a lot of different criteria for that to happen. I think that’s one thing St. Louis has going for us. There really aren’t a bunch of cities out there saying, “We’ll take your team.”

Furthermore, Dierdorf says, even though Stan Kroenke isn’t saying anything publicly to ease fans’ fears, he wants to make it work in St. Louis.

“I know this. The Rams would like to stay. The Rams are not looking for a reason to leave St. Louis. They would prefer to stay here. As long as that sentiment prevails, I’m cautiously optimistic,” Dierdorf said. “I know this is happening behind the scenes. I know there’s been a lot of good work being done by people trying to pull these various entities together and to coordinate with the Rams and Stan Kroenke and trying to reach some middle ground and trying to find a way out of this.”

“Out” is a key word in this discussion.

I can think of numerous times in which Rams’ COO Kevin Demoff has appeared on The Ryan Kelley Morning After and made reference to how nice it would’ve been to have a game outside…or how he wants to see the Rams and the fans know that their team is here for the long haul. Dierdorf says that means the days of the Rams playing indoors are numbered…if they are to stay in St. Louis.

“I think we’re looking at an open air stadium, which is fine with me, as we’ll get back to playing football outside.”

So then the question becomes: where?

Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch wrote this past weekend [LINK] that the Rams would have three options. Dierdorf addressed each one:

-The Chrysler Plant: “I look at that Chrysler Plant, and you just say, “Well, that’s an ideal location.”

-Maryland Heights: “From a traffic standpoint, I think the Maryland Heights location probably works the best from the standpoint that it’s close to multiple ways in and out.”

-The Bottle District, just north of The Dome: “You do have the bottle district if you want to keep it inside the city.”

No matter what, Dierdorf says, if Stan Kroenke, the NFL, and the city, county, and state build a new stadium, you can expect it to not just be a stadium. The location may be up in the air, but what Kroenke will try to do is build much more than a place that fans will travel to 10 times a year.

“You ask where does it make the most sense? Well, you got to get back to Stan Kroenke is a real estate developer. I’ve been to every stadium in this league. I look at the model of what Robert Kraft did in New England, where he built Patriots Place in New England. 100 yards from the entrance of Gillette Stadium is a Bass Pro Shop, is a shopping center, is a hotel, is a satellite hospital like a Barnes West could be a part of this. And that’s what Stan Kroenke does for a living is he develops real estate. So, the stadium is actually a part of a retail center that’s open 365 days a year. To me, that would be ideal. And, of course, we’d be right in Stan Kroenke’s wheelhouse if that’s what we’re able to put together.”

If you’ve ever been to Foxboro, you know that it’s like driving through Kirkwood…and all of the sudden there’s an NFL stadium in front of you with all kinds of “stuff’ around it.

Foxboro is actually almost as close to Providence, Rhode Island as it is to Boston. But, because of Kraft’s development of the area, it’s become a year-round destination.

Kroenke won’t have to go too far out of the area to a relatively remote location like Foxboro to make this work. Hell, as Bernie wrote and as Dierdorf said, Downtown is still an option.

But, The Dome is no longer one. Hopefully, that means a new football stadium is in St. Louis’ future.

None of this is a guarantee though.

“Of course there’s a chance it’s not going to work out. That’s why I think we all have to be attentive to what’s going on.”

But, when it’s all said and done, Dierdorf believes there will be the proverbial happy ending.

“I really do believe that it’s not lip service when the Rams say they want to stay here,” Dierdorf said.

“I think we’ll see an outdoor stadium built in one of those three locations. It’s what has to happen.”

You can listen to the full interview with Dan Dierdorf by clicking HERE.

Log-in to post your comments, or you can email me at tmckernan@insidestl.com.

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Mike in South City
# Mike in South City
Tuesday, February 05, 2013 5:29 PM
I wonder how good of friends Dierdorf and Kroenke are????
Don Draper1
# Don Draper1
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 3:50 PM
Has Dan ever attended a concert at the Riverport amphitheater? If so he would know that the traffic is not the "best"

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