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Dome talks head to new stage after Rams' proposal is rejected
DOME

Dome talks head to new stage after Rams' proposal is rejected

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ST. LOUIS • Regional leaders have officially closed the door on a $700 million upgrade to the Edward Jones Dome, ushering in a new stage of negotiations with the St. Louis Rams.

This week, officials charged with running the Dome formally rejected — as long expected — the Rams’ proposal to overhaul the football stadium.

Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe, president of the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, sent a letter to the Rams to say the agency is “not in a position” to pay for a $700 million renovation.

In a separate letter, Jim Shrewsbury, chairman of the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, said it would not be “prudent” to make the improvements recommended by arbitrators earlier this year.

“Basically, what we’re saying is we’re not going to be bound by that arbitration,” Shrewsbury said in an interview Friday. “It is not going to force us to upgrade the stadium.”

“We simply don’t have the money to do it.”

The end of arbitration, however, opens the door for a new round of negotiations.

Shrewsbury said Gov. Jay Nixon had asked to take the lead on this round — one nearly certain to include talk of a new stadium, rather than trying to upgrade the Dome. Area officials have already begun scouting for potential new sites.

Nixon’s office emailed a statement late Friday afternoon saying, “I look forward to hearing from the Rams about their long-term plans.”

The Sports Complex Authority owns the dome. The CVC operates it. Both bodies are run by representatives of the city, county and state, which combined to fund the Dome’s construction.

The lease with the CVC binds the Rams to stay at the Dome for two more football seasons. But this week’s letters mean that, if nothing changes, the team could leave St. Louis after the 2014 season, or go on a year-to-year lease.

Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer, did not return messages seeking comment.

A clause in the Rams’ contract required the CVC to provide the team with a “first-tier” stadium — in the top eight of 32 National Football League teams — by 2005, and again by 2015.

In 2012, the two sides began trading proposals for the 2015 marker.

The CVC’s final plan featured a new glass addition, outdoor terraces and a four-sided center-hung scoreboard. It estimated the total cost at under $200 million and called for the Rams to kick in half.

The Rams proposed tearing down half the Dome, extending it across Broadway and building a large glass wall. The team also wanted to add a sliding roof, reconfigured seating, two end zone “party platforms” and new, larger entrances. CVC contractors estimated the plan would cost at least $700 million.

Both sides rejected opposing proposals. Arbitrators took up the case in January and ruled in February that the Rams’ proposal was the only way to make the building first-tier.

CVC leaders immediately said it was unlikely the state, St. Louis and St. Louis County would agree to such an expense. The three are still paying a combined $24 million a year toward the bonds taken out to build the Dome.

Shrewsbury, head of the sports complex authority, said Friday that he wasn’t sure if Nixon had started talks with Rams owner Stan Kroenke. But nobody else, Shrewsbury said, is doing anything.

“If anything’s going on, it’s between Stan Kroenke and the governor,” Shrewsbury said. “This thing is still fluid.”

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