By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Rams have submitted plans to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome, a key step to making sure the team doesn't leave town.
The team turned in its counterproposal on Tuesday, declining to release details. The plan was given to the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, the operator of the dome that announced its own plan in February. The CVC said it will begin the review process, but spokeswoman Donna Andrews declined further comment.
The Rams can legally break its 30-year lease after the 2014 season if the dome is not deemed to be among the top tier of NFL stadiums.
The rejected CVC plan included $124 million in improvements, featuring a massive scoreboard measuring 96 feet long, new club seats, windows to add natural light and even a 50,000-square-foot attachment with a "Geek Suite" area for electronic buffs and fantasy football players.
But the CVC plan called for the team to pay 52 percent of the cost, or about $64.5 million. Taxpayers in St. Louis city and county would have been asked to pick up the rest of the cost or some $60 million.
The Rams offered no details on why the plan was rejected.
Under the lease, the two sides now have until June 15 to try and reach an agreement. Otherwise, arbitration begins. The arbitration process could last through the end of the year.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke has been non-committal about the team's future in St. Louis if the dome is not upgraded, creating concern that St. Louis could lose an NFL team for the second time in a quarter of a century. The football Cardinals left for Arizona after the 1987 season in large part because of stadium issues. Owner Bill Bidwill wanted a stadium of his own rather than sharing Busch Stadium with baseball's Cardinals.
Former Rams owner Georgia Frontiere brought the team from Los Angeles to her hometown of St. Louis prior to the 1995 season. The dome, built with taxpayer funds, opened that season. Frontiere died in 2008 and Kroenke, who had a 40 percent share, bought the remaining stake from her children.
Since the dome opened, several NFL teams have opened new open-air or retractable-roof stadiums. The St. Louis stadium is smaller than many and lacks some of their amenities.
The lease has built-in intervals when the team can break the lease if the dome is not deemed to be among the top 25 percent of all 32 NFL stadiums based on various criteria. The next interval is 2014.
There is concern in St. Louis that Kroenke could move the team back to Los Angeles. Kroenke, a real estate mogul whose wife is a Wal-Mart heir, is a Missouri native but has ties to California, too. He owns an estate in Malibu, Calif., and recently made an unsuccessful bid to purchase baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers.
The dome was financed largely with taxpayer money — $256 million in bonds repaid by the state of Missouri and St. Louis city and county in a 30-year debt that will total $720 million.
The CVC is a public agency, though the lease says the CVC and the Rams can keep some information confidential except under certain circumstances — such as when the law or NFL policies require information to be released, or if all parties give permission to making information public. It wasn't clear if that provision conflicts with the Missouri Sunshine Law, which requires governments and public agencies to keep most records and meetings open to public view.
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