St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke has finally revealed his secret wish list for upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome, and they’re a doozy: Knocking down half the stadium and extending it outward to include larger concourses, two “party platforms,” and a glass curtain wall; adding a sliding roof panel to let in air and sunlight on days when you want those things; and reconfigured seating to make the dome more attractive to non-football sports like basketball and soccer. The Rams didn’t include an estimated price tag, but a construction company hired by the mayor’s office did: a cool $700 million, or nearly twice what the entire dome cost when it was built in 1995, even accounting for inflation.
That’s quite an ask, especially when it comes as a counter to a far more modest $124 million renovation plan offered by the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, half of which would be paid for by the team. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the mayor will ask the CVC to reject Kroenke’s plan by June 1.
All of this, really, is just posturing in advance of what everyone has known all along will be an inevitable arbitration hearing this summer to determine what’s a fair public contribution to keep the stadium “top tier,” as required in the Rams’ incredible sweetheart lease. (ESPN.com reports that if the CVC accepts the arbitrator’s decision, expected sometime in 2013, then the Rams would be bound by it.) Just as there’s no way the Rams were ever going to accept a plan that came down to “how about we buy a new scoreboard and split the cost?”, things like sliding roof panels are just begging to be bargained away first thing; it’s not like one-quarter of current NFL stadiums — or, in fact, any — have mini-sunroofs.
When all is said and done, then, it’s fair to guess that the final public cost of keeping Kroenke happy will be somewhere between $60 million and $700 million. That’s a lot of middle ground, and I don’t think anyone envies the arbitrator his job. But as the saying goes, at least now they can commence with haggling over the price.