posted on May 15, 2012 15:08
On Monday, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster released the Rams' counter-proposal to renovate the Edward Jones Dome per the terms of their lease with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC).
I'll forgive you for not thumbing through the dense, legal-jargon-packed thirty nine page document; despite the trend in the past twenty years toward clear, concise legal writing, apparently someone in the Rams' legal department didn't get the memo. (A little legal humor there).
I think the proposal makes one thing very clear:
Stan Kroenke wants $750 million or so from somebody.
And he really doesn't care whom.
Let me explain. Optimists will likely call Kroenke's plan "ambitious." It includes moving Broadway (yes, the entire street...) over toward the current elevated portion of I-70 (what it would mean for the proposed Arch renovations and new I-70 bridge, I have no idea), and tearing down most of the eastern part of the dome, where media members currently enter and sit in our beloved press box.
The east side would be renovated to let in more light and to have new, "telescopic seating" which would increase the capacity of the Dome by another 6,000 seats or so, enough for St. Louis to (theoretically) host a future Super Bowl. The existing roof would be replaced by a more modern structure with a lot more glass, and a panel that either is or is not a retractable roof.
I threw in that last sentence because to me, it sure sounds like the new "panel" would be little more than a sun roof on a 1989 Pontiac Sunburst Sedan. You know the type: it kind of cracks open a little bit to let in some air, but you wouldn't exactly confuse it with a convertible.
Nonetheless, because the panel would let in more humidity and (presumably) some moisture, the dome would have to be refitted to account for drainage systems, relocation of exposed cables, and many other changes that would be necessary because of even this limited exposure to the elements.
The estimated price tag on the renovations? The Rams didn't bother to come up with a figure; after all, can you really put a price tag on a work of art like they're asking for?
Apparently, it's $750 million.
Don't forget the $500 million in lost convention revenue that the mayor's office estimates that the city will forgo during the renovations.
And that's before throwing in non-red seats!
It sure seems like a pretty passive-aggressive way for the Rams to ask for a new stadium. Why would St. Louis taxpayers okay such drastic renovations when a new stadium would cost roughly the same, and be much, much nicer than the Frankenstadium that would be the end product of the Rams' plan?
That's assuming that St. Louis taxpayers would agree to any kind of public funding for either the renovations or the new stadium; no small assumption in this day and age of dwindling tax revenues due to TIF financing and all manner of other "business enticement instruments" (but that's a different column for a different section entirely).
Credit Rams Owner Stan Kroenke for setting up a number of contingencies throughout the process, contingencies that have left St. Louis Rams fans with (ultimately) three options:
"Pay $750 million to renovate the Dome"
"Pay $750-$1 billion for a new stadium"
or the least palatable to St. Louis fans:
"I'll just move the team to L.A. or London and immediately increase my franchise value by $750 million (or more)."
It all became clear when the Vikings had their recent stadium issues; Kroenke has done well to position himself with a number of "outs" so that he can keep up the heat on St. Louis through this entire process.
Vikings move to L.A.? Set up London as another potential destination for the Rams.
Think $750 million is too much to renovate the Dome?
Build a new one!
I'm not trying to be "Chicken Little" on this any more than necessary; before the plan came out, I estimated the Rams chances to stay in St. Louis at roughly 55-45. I may downgrade that now to 50-50, but that means that there is still a pretty good chance the Rams stay in town.
What I am saying is that Kroenke has sure made a number of shrewd business moves to ensure that he kept leverage over the city (and/or county) no matter what happens, no matter how unlikely the scenario.
Bravo, sir. Well played, old chap!
What's truly baffling is that it sure doesn't seem like the most expensive item in the Rams' proposal, the Pontiac Sunburst Sunroof, even serves a revenue-generating purpose. I get that they probably need the ventialtion if they replace one of the walls of the dome and the ceiling with a lot of glass; if not, some of those September games would be like watching football in a sweltering greenhouse.
And I get why the Rams want 6,000 more seats; more seats (presumably) means more revenue for the team. More revenue is good--even I get that one.
But would any more fans have attended games last season if they could have "cracked the roof" a bit during games? Not with the product that the team put on the field last year. More seats, more concessions, more technology at the seats; I get all of those types of improvements. But to think that they could charge a few extra bucks per seat for the "glorious experience" of watching football under a semi-retractable roof is a bit delusional.
It is true that the matter will now go to arbitration, as we all knew it would all along. It'll be interesting to see if the arbitrator favors the CVC's reasonable, lease-tailored proposal, or the Rams' grander, more ostentatious plan.
And it is true that the CVC is the body that has the final say in this process; they choose whether or not to accept the arbitrator's decision. If they accept the arbitrated plan, the Rams' lease extends another ten years, though the Rams' ability to disgregard the lease and leave anyway is a different matter entirely.
But for now, it sure looks like it'll be up to St. Louis taxpayers to determine how Stan Kroenke gets paid.
Will it be in the form of an extensively-renovated Edward Jones Dome?
Will they pony up for a new stadium downtown or somewhere in the county?
Or will Stan Kroenke be forced to seek his fortune on the sunny shores of the Pacific, or the foggy banks of the Thames?
It'll be an interesting next several months, to be sure.
-I attended the first day of Rams Rookie Orientation last week at the Continuity X Training Facility. That's rookie minicamp at Rams Park for those that have trouble following all of the different names they give stuff out there.
I like to think I learned my lesson about how much non-game situations mean in terms of evaluating players last season through training camp and the preseason: not a whole lot. At rookie minicamp, that problem is exacerbated by the fact that they're young players going without pads and playing against a bunch of tryout guys.
I will say this, though: second round WR Brian Quick sure looks like a player so far. He was matched up against third round CB Trumaine Johnson most of the day, and made several great catches, especially considering that many of the balls thrown by the rookie camp arms were off-target. Quick is big and fluid, and (hopefully) will be able to carry his obviously abundant physical gifts into game situations.
Fourth round WR Chris Givens showcased a lot of speed and crisp route-running, as advertised. I'm going to make a comparison that will make Rams fans cringe, but he looked a little bit like a rich man's Donnie Avery, before the knee injuries. That's meant as a compliment, I swear!
I hope to make it to a couple of the full team minicamps over the next few weeks, and to have more to report after watching the rookies take on established NFL vets.
As always, thanks for reading.
D.J. Gelner covers the Rams for insideSTL. Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) for the latest Rams updates. Check out his personal blog for updates on the as-yet-untitled novel that he's writing.