ST. LOUIS • The Rams' plan to renovate the Edward Jones Dome is signed, sealed, delivered — but not yours to see.
The Rams and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, the public agency that operates the Dome, are not releasing the team's proposal, even though taxpayers would likely fund the bulk of the improvements.
Officials with the CVC had said they would be happy to release the plan, but only with the Rams' OK. They initially cited a confidentiality clause in the Rams' lease for the Dome.
But on Tuesday, the CVC rejected an open-records request from the Post-Dispatch for the plan, offering a new argument by citing exemptions in the state's Sunshine Law.
The Rams' front office on Tuesday, after delivering the plan to the CVC, also said it would remain out of public view.
The Rams' plan is a counter to one presented by the CVC, which on Feb. 1 proposed $124 million in improvements. But that wasn't the only offer from the CVC.
Prior to presenting the renovation plan, the CVC had offered to reduce the Rams' lease at the Dome by five years, sources told the Post-Dispatch. That would have made the lease expire in 2020 instead of 2025.
In exchange, the CVC wanted the Rams to waive a requirement in the lease that the Dome be a "first-tier" facility in 15 categories, the sources said. That requirement is what triggered the current round of talks on the future of the Dome.
The Rams rejected both offers in a letter sent to the CVC on March 1, according to sources. The CVC has denied open-records requests from the Post-Dispatch for the letter, the proposal to shorten the lease and the Rams' plan.
Asked about the lease-shortening offer on Tuesday, Kevin Demoff, the Rams' executive vice president for football operations, said, "Our lease sets forth the procedure to bring the Edward Jones Dome up to the first-tier standard." He declined to comment further, saying, "The process is confidential."
The Rams also refused to release their Dome renovation plan, again citing the confidentiality provision in the lease.
"The process and procedure is confidential under the parties' agreements, and the Rams will continue to respect those confidentiality obligations," the team said in a statement.
The Rams' plan did not include a cost estimate, sources told the Post-Dispatch.
Katherine "Kitty" Ratcliffe, president of the CVC, declined to comment Tuesday. Jeff Rainford, chief of staff to Mayor Francis Slay, and Mike Jones, a top aide to County Executive Charlie A. Dooley, did not return messages seeking comment.
Public records experts argue that the confidentiality clause in the lease does not trump the state's open-records law, and that the CVC, as a public agency, has an obligation to release the Rams' proposal.
The CVC also has cited exemptions in the Sunshine Law that allow public bodies to withhold certain records relating to ongoing legal issues, contract negotiations and real estate transactions.
But the Post-Dispatch maintains that none of those exemptions apply to the CVC and Rams proposals because they pertain specifically to a lease that is already an effective contract.
"It's outrageous that taxpayers are being kept in the dark when hundreds of millions of dollars invested in a public facility are at stake," said Post-Dispatch Editor Arnie Robbins.
The CVC has until June 1 to accept or reject the Rams' counteroffer. If the two sides don't strike a deal by June 15 on how to make the Dome a first-tier facility, they would go into arbitration, which could run through year's end.
Without an agreement, the Rams could terminate the lease after the 2014 season or renew it on a year-to-year basis.
The Dome, which opened in 1995, was largely financed with $256 million in bonds, and the repayment of that 30-year debt will be $720 million. Every year, Missouri spends $12 million to pay off the debt, and St. Louis and St. Louis County each pay $6 million.