Judge orders release of Rams/Dome documents

2012-06-08T00:15:00Z 2012-06-08T21:31:23Z Judge orders release of Rams/Dome documentsBY TODD C. FRANKEL • tfrankel@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8110 stltoday.com

ST. LOUIS • A judge ruled Thursday that the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission must release more documents related to plans for renovating the Edward Jones Dome for the Rams.

St. Louis County Circuit Judge Bryan Hettenbach ruled that the state's open records law applied to documents about potential changes to the Rams' lease of the Dome.

Hettenbach rejected the CVC's arguments that the documents were excluded from public review because they touched on contract talks and real estate deals.

It was not clear whether the CVC would comply with the decision, or whether it would fight on in court. CVC President Kathleen "Kitty" Ratcliffe did not return a call seeking comment.

The judge's ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed in April by the Post-Dispatch. KSDK-TV later joined the suit.

"We've always felt the records should be public," said Joseph Martineau, an attorney for the Post-Dispatch.

In his ruling, Hettenbach wrote, "There are no other football teams vying to play in the Dome. There are no other landlords offering a lease to the Rams. Where there is no third-party competitive market component to the real estate negotiations of a public governmental body, basic principles of open government favor public knowledge."

The ruling came on the heels of last month's release of the Rams' proposal for the Dome, with an estimated $700 million price tag. The Rams and CVC initially refused to make the proposal public, but it was later released by the state attorney general's office.

The CVC's renovation proposal was more modest, with a $124 million price tag. Both sides have rejected each other's plans, which were intended to meet a lease requirement that the building be a "first tier" stadium by 2015.

But other details about the dealings between the CVC and Rams remain, for now, unknown. Among the documents sought by the Post-Dispatch are any related to another offer made by the CVC. Sources have told the newspaper that the CVC initially offered to reduce the Rams' lease by five years, in exchange for the team waiving the "first tier" requirement. That would have made the lease expire in 2020.

If the CVC and Rams don't strike a Dome deal by June 15, they will head to arbitration.

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