Rams seeking $700m in upgrades to 17-year-old, $280m dome

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.


24 comments on “Rams seeking $700m in upgrades to 17-year-old, $280m dome

  1. Neil, I guess you aren’t counting the cost of the Colorado Rapids stadium/training complex and the public portion of the Avalanche’s arena in the total ‘public bill for keeping Stan Kroenke happy’?

    How long will this staggering taxpayer largesse keep Mr. Kroenke satiated? Can St. Louis fans expect another demand (perhaps $2Bn in ‘upgrades’ next time) within the next 20 years?

    I just hope someone in city gov’t looks at what, exactly, the Rams have brought to St. Louis before signing the check.

    As I understand it, the city not installing holographic displays wouldn’t be an invitation to legal action by the team, it would simply give them the ability to break their lease (for a relatively modest fee, if I recall correctly) and shop themselves elsewhere.

    Taxpayers in St. Louis should be so lucky…

  2. The unavoidable facts are 1) the Rams would have most likely not moved to STL without the “top tier” guarantee and 2) the EJ Dome is not close to being top tier.

    The Rams’ proposal sounds a lot closer to what would be considered top tier than the CVC’s proposal. To me this feels a lil’ bit like a city that is sick of subsidizing the Rams but it looking for political cover if/when the team leaves.

  3. Actually, I think it’s pretty certain that the Rams would have moved to St. Louis without the top-tier guarantee, so long as they were getting a stadium free of charge. If you click the “sweetheart lease” link above, you’ll see Jim Nagourney, who was on the Rams negotiating team, recall that he said, “Some of the stuff [we were asking for], I said, ‘Guys, some of this is crazy.’ And John Shaw, who was president of the Rams at the time — brilliant, brilliant guy — said, ‘They can always say no, let’s ask for it.’”

    It was an epically bad contract that the city (or I guess actually the CVC) signed. And yes, they can get out of it by just giving the Rams the finger and saying, “Go ahead, move if you want.” Given that they’d only be buying another 13 years of the team anyway with these renovations, it’s hard to say there’s that much downside to that option.

  4. Don’t mean to attack you Neil, but the “top-tier guarantee” was likely put in because St. Louis officials feared that Baltimore was in the bidding as a mystery city. You also had Nashville in the bidding and both teams ended up with football teams, Baltimore snaring the Browns from Cleveland and Nashville snaring the Oilers from Houston. This is proof enough to state that the Rams likely had multiple offers on the table before selecting the St. Louis offer.

    In terms of teams moving to new pastures, we could be five months away from AEG’s purchase of the Falcons with the intention of moving the team to Los Angeles to become the LA Falcons. Home Depot reported a major loss today and that could entice the CEO/Falcons owner to sell the team because it represents a luxury on Home Depot’s bottom line. As for the Rams, chances are they will get an extension on their lease with renovations.

  5. I don’t take it as an attack — you could well be right, though I’m always wary of assuming malfeasance when incompetence will do.

    As for the Falcons, Blank hasn’t been CEO of Home Depot in a decade. And given that AEG is likely to demand a bargain price in order to make its stadium deal work, I don’t see him biting until he’s exhausted all new-stadium efforts in Atlanta, which he isn’t anywhere close to doing yet.

  6. You make a good point. In the 90′s people just looked at stadiums differently. I’m guess after seeing the plight of the Rays teams are going to be very cautious about moving to new digs unless the lease gives some kind of option to upgrade or terminate.

  7. Lets not forget that Georgia Frontiere virtually hand picked her home city as the place to move her football team to…

    No doubt the amazingly ridiculous lease helped her (and her execs) make that decision, but she wanted to go to St. Louis, period.

  8. Seeing as Stan Kroenke is friends with AEG owner Philip Anschutz and the demands that Kroenke is making to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome, my guess is that the city of St. Louis and the CVC will say NO and allow the Rams to move back to America’s second largest city. I am for new stadiums and arenas in most cases. Though in this instance, the city of St. Louis and their taxpayers would be getting ripped off MASSIVELY. They would be better off to reject Kroenke’s proposal and allow him to move the Rams back to Los Angeles.

  9. @Matt — But if a team does move to LA, it takes away the LA move threat that so many host cities are now subject to…..

    We heard that LA move threat here too, in Santa Clara, as part of the strong-arming to get the ‘yes’ votes on the stadium here.

    I hope that some team does move there, just to stop the threats.

  10. Neil

    Thanks for the clarification of Arthur Blank’s job status. In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised if, at least, Home Depot sells their share of the team to AEG and the team is moved to Los Angeles to become the LA Falcons. It would be unfair to Atlanta residents, but Art Modell never considered fairness when he moved the original Browns to Baltimore and that resulted in a major backlash that eventually forced the league to expand to 32 teams.

  11. The NFL does not allow corporate ownership, so Home Depot has nothing to do with the Falcons. Arthur Blank did make his money from Home Depot, but the team and company are completely separate entities. Phillip Anschutz would buy the team not corporate AEG. Even if the team is for sale what’s to stop someone from Georgia buying and keeping the team in Atlanta, especially if they are willing to pay what the league and Blank deems market value? Besides, the Falcons lease at the Georgia Dome expires when the bonds that funded the facility are paid off later this decade. They can’t move now. NFL commish Roger Goodell hasn’t come to Georgia to play the relocation card, which means like Neil wrote Blank has not exhausted all his new stadium efforts.

    ajc.com/sports/atlanta-falcons/new-stadium-plan-retractable-1425916.html

  12. 700M? what the xxxx, why don’t you just build a new stadium. I like the owners game plan for life though

    1) marry a billionaire’s daughter
    2) buy nfl team

  13. @ SantaClaraTaxpayer

    Which NFL team do you think is most likely to move into L.A.?

    My guesses would be the Raiders and/or Rams.

    @ Jessy S. & DW

    The Falcons should remain in Atlanta for many more years to come, I cannot see them relocating.

  14. @Matt
    Sadly, if the Raiders move to LA, the city of Oakland and County of Alameda will still have $20 million/year in debt payments to make on the Coliseum stemming from the mid-90′s renovations to bring the Raiders back from LA.

    Footballphds dot com constantly have speculation about which team will move to LA. Ask them!

  15. When LA gets a team, the threat of using LA as leverage will only get stronger, not weaken. I say this because Farmers Field is being built to house two teams and not only one. I believe there is even something in the Farmers deal that would increase the deal to 1 billion with a second team.

    Once LA gets a team and that shiny new stadium. The threat will be even stronger. All a team would have to do is show their city a picture of the newly constructed Farmers Field. Wouldn’t you say that gives a team even more leverage?

  16. When LA gets a team, the threat of using LA as leverage will only get stronger, not weaken. I say this because Farmers Field is being built to house two teams and not only one. I believe there is even something in the Farmers deal that would increase the deal to 1 billion with a second team.

    Once LA gets a team and that shiny new stadium. The threat will be even stronger. All a team would have to do is show their city a picture of the newly constructed Farmers Field. Wouldn’t you say that gives a team even more leverage?

  17. Runner:

    To be ‘fair’ to Mr. Kroenke, as I recall he was at very least a multimillionaire (and possibly much more) from his own business interests when he wed Ms. Walton.

    I’m not suggesting this makes him a swell guy… but fair due to him: It isn’t all his wife’s money. Far from it.

  18. DW:

    Didn’t know about the NFL’s no corporate ownership rule, but at the same time, it is very likely that members of Home Depot’s board owns partial ownership of the Falcons. That is a very good way to get around the spirit of the rule because you need millions and millions to buy an NFL franchise. It is just like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer being part owners of the Seattle Seahawks and William Clay Ford being owner of the Detroit Lions.

    Also, DW and Matt: The Falcons don’t have to play all their cards prior to playing their relocation card. Just look at the original Browns as an example. The team signed their new deal with Baltimore out of the blue. In the previous decade, both the Colts and Raiders bolted for new digs within a year of each other. The truth is that the relocation card doesn’t have to be played.

    For the Record, I think the Falcons will be the team to move, and it will be to LA as of now.

  19. “For the Record, I think the Falcons will be the team to move, and it will be to LA as of now.”

    I still think that the Raiders and/or Rams are the leading candidates when it comes to relocating into LA. I highly doubt that the Falcons will move to L.A. or anywhere else. I just cannot see it happening.

  20. I think all Minnesotans should be on their knees and bow to Master Zygi. He’s that good. A billion dollar stadium is the least we could do for this man. Or, making a holiday after his name. Master Zygi is supreme.

    St Louis and San Francisco owners have no loyalty.

  21. If AEG’s Farmer’s Field becomes reality, a move to L.A. by Stan Kroenke would likely double the value of his Rams franchise (ranked 30 out of 32 teams by Forbes). He’s not just a friend but a business partner of Philip Anschutz (see Bloomfield Events Center) and he bought his first soccer franchise from him. Kroenke already has moved three homes games to London (unprecedented) and attempted to buy the Dodgers. If L.A. is an option for Kroenke, there’s no negotiation to be do done in St. Louis. Here’s my take on this: bit.ly/J6Rzwz

  22. Ray, in order for the Rams to reap $100m in new revenues, as you predict they would in L.A., they’d have to vault from 30th to 4th in the NFL in revenues, ahead of teams like the Jets and Giants. And that’s *after* paying off all the stadium costs that AEG is insisting any team would have to assume. That seems extremely optimistic to me, especially since being in a large market confers absolutely zero advantages in the NFL, where virtually all TV revenues are national.

    Also, there’s the little matter that the CVC can lock the Rams in by accepting whatever the arbitrator comes up with. Which could be pricey, certainly, but still, the ball is ultimately in St. Louis’ court as far as relocation.

  23. Neil,

    I’ve been a Rams PSL-holder in St. Louis since day one and certainly hope they don’t move. But there is neither the cash nor the political will to come anywhere near making the Edward Jones Dome “first-tier.” Not even close. I hope you’re right that it will be hard for Kroenke and partner Anschutz to strike the right deal, but if you look at the Forbes franchise-net-worth list, it’s clear that large markets with new stadiums offer revenue streams (and thus value) that places like St. Louis can’t touch. That’s why L.A. is such a rare opportunity for a guy like Kroenke (much more so, thanks to the advent of the $1 billion stadium) than it would have been 10 or 20 years ago. The big question isn’t why he’s move, if he can. It’s why would he stay? I’ve never predicted he’s gone, but I’m pretty certain he wants out, based on his actions to date.