Rams seek to remove part of the dome's roof under team's proposal to revamp facility
The St. Louis Rams wants to blow the lid off the Edward Jones Dome – literally – as part of the football team’s conditions for remaining in St. Louis and at the dome.
Read the Rams' proposal (PDF)
The Rams’ conceptual design, made public today by the Missouri attorney general’s office, calls for cutting out a section of the dome’s roof to create “access to natural light” during games and outside ventilation.
But that proposal also would blow the lid off city officials' budget for improvements. Jeff Rainford, chief of staff to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, said that a rough cost estimate of the Rams' proposal is "north of $700 million."
The Rams' proposal also would put the Edward Jones Dome out of commission for two to three years, Rainford said, resulting in estimated economic losses of $500 million to local businesses.
As a result, Slay plans to recommend that the region's Convention and Visitors Commission reject the Rams' proposal.
Besides the roof, the Rams also propose renovating and reconfiguring much of the Dome’s current seating, although the overall maximum seating of 66,000 would remain the same.
The Rams envision that the dome's first 14 rows of seats, spanning off the floor, be rebuilt to include “a powered telescopic seating system, comparable in quality to the telescopic seating system at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, to allow for flexible event seating.”
The Rams also want the facility to be able to be "economically expanded" to handle another 6,000 spectators for a Super Bowl.
The Rams proposal doesn't include any cost estimates for the substantial renovations it is proposing.
The Rams’ proposal has been under wraps -- marked "confidential" -- ever since it was submitted April 30 to the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, as part of the negotiations over what improvements would put the dome back in the top tier of the nation’s professional football stadiums.
The Rams' 30-year lease has a 2015 deadline for such improvements. If the “top tier” mandate isn't met, the team could conceivably get out of the lease and move elsewhere.
Rainford said that any such talk is premature. Both sides will likely engage in negotiations for some time and "we figured out a long time agao that this would end up in arbitration," he said.
The Rams were cool to the commission's original proposal and said as much in its counter-plan, signed by Rams vice president Kevin Demoff.
According to press accounts, the CVC's proposal was much more modest, including a giant scoreboard over midfield and a new 20,000 square-foot lobby with a beer garden. The commission's estimated pricetag was $124 million, and officials wanted the Rams to cover more than half of the cost.
"The Rams agree with the CVC's statements...that the facilities and the components presently do not meet First Tier standards," Demoff wrote. "But as evidenced by the Rams' recent rejection of the CVC 2012 plans, the Rams disagree that the implementation of the CVC 2012 plans would rsuilt in the improvement of the facilities and each of the specified components to First Tier standards."
Rainford said that all sides, including the public, need to be mindful of the "very heavy price" that civic leaders and football fans paid in the early 1990s to build the new domed stadium and convention center, and to woo the Rams from Los Angeles.
Attorney General Chris Koster announced a week ago that he believed the Rams' document should be made public under the state’s open-records laws. The state had a copy because it helped finance the dome's original construction.
In a statement, Koster said, “The proposal for upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome is an open record under Missouri’s Sunshine Law,” Koster said. “While the Sunshine Law includes some necessary exceptions, the law is rooted in the position that public business should be conducted in public, particularly when taxpayer dollars are involved.”