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XFL football to pay St. Louis $100,000 per game, 4 times what Rams paid

XFL football to pay St. Louis $100,000 per game, 4 times what Rams paid

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ST. LOUIS • Matthew Dewey just wanted a fair deal.

Dewey, general manager of the America’s Center convention complex, sat down this fall with representatives of one of the nation’s newest football leagues, the XFL.

Matthew Dewey

Matthew Dewey, who previously managed the Peabody Opera House, was hired to oversee the America's Center convention complex.

He knew of the bargain city leaders gave the St. Louis Rams two decades ago on rent at the city’s new domed stadium — $25,000 a game, plus the lion’s share of advertising and concession dollars.

And he ignored it.

In November, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck agreed to pay $100,000 in rent per game plus all concession cash to the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, managers of the stadium now called the Dome at America’s Center.

“It’s a fair deal,” Dewey said recently. “Good for the city, good for the facility. And it’s also good for the client.”

The XFL has reached similar agreements in cities from Tampa Bay to Houston; they are results, in part, of the league’s new arrival and farm-team stature in comparison with the mighty National Football League. But they also reflect a mentality changing in some cities across the country: Civic leaders are asking for more from team owners building new facilities, and cutting tougher contracts with sports teams.

Two years ago, MGM Resorts International and Anschutz Entertainment Group built the $375 million T-Mobile Arena, home to the Las Vegas Golden Knights, out of their own pockets.

California investor Anthony Precourt agreed earlier this monthto privately fund a 20,000-seat, $225 million Major League Soccer stadium in Austin, Texas — and also pay $8.25 million in rent to the city over the 20-year lease.

And Stan Kroenke, who moved the Rams to Los Angeles in 2016, is privately financing his palatial Inglewood stadium — now expected to cost more than $4 billion.

St. Louis, buffeted by residents’ anger after the Rams’ departure, is on the same path. City voters turned down last year a $60 million tax proposal to build a stadium, quashing hopes for a MLS expansion team then. A new proposal, by World Wide Technology chief executive Jim Kavanaugh and Enterprise Holdings’ Taylor family, is now gaining steam, in part because the families say they’ll pay for stadium construction themselves.

The Rams’ arrival

It’s a far cry from the deal that brought the Rams to St. Louis.

Rams executives wanted luxury suites, a slice of parking revenue, 1,200 parking spaces, almost all of the advertising revenue — including naming rights — and all proceeds from concession sales on game days, plus a share of some sales at other events.

In the fall of 1995, the stadium, then called the Trans World Dome, opened. Its final price tag came to more than $300 million. City leaders have said the bill, and the lease, were the cost of landing an NFL team.

The Rams brought with them increased tax revenue in ticket sales, parking and concessions. The team paid the commission about $250,000 a year for 10 games, plus half the game-day expenses.

The visitors commission didn’t break even.

But early indications of the agreements cut by the XFL show better deals for local taxpayers.

The league has agreed to give managers of the Raymond James Stadium, home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, revenues from all game-day food, beverage and parking sales — plus ticket fees that could end up costing the league more than $150,000 a game, according to a term sheet provided by the Tampa Sports Authority.

At the University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium, the XFL has agreed to pay for game-day operations, a $2 per ticket facility fee, plus between $30,000 and $45,000 per game, according to its term sheet. The university will also pocket a share of concessions and merchandise sales.

‘Football back to St. Louis’

The XFL agreement with St. Louis guarantees five home games per season for three years — $1.5 million in total, contractually obligated.

WWE Raw At 25

Vince McMahon appears to be trying to get the XFL going again after declaring for bankruptcy. (AP file photo from 2010)

It took the Rams six seasons to send the commission that much rent.

The visitors commission has to cover heating, cooling, lighting, Wi-Fi and turf, among other operational costs. And the XFL gets 100 percent of the broadcasting, game-day advertising and ticket revenues, less fees and taxes.

But the XFL has to buy out the dome’s current concessionaire, Levy Restaurants, for $5,000 per game if it wants to pocket all profits from T-shirt, jerseys and other merchandise sales. Otherwise, it gets 80 percent of the revenues, after labor costs, and pays 20 percent to the commission.

It doesn’t get any of the profits from hot dog, beer and other concession sales, unless yearly totals surpass $200,000 in a season, in which case the commission kicks 25 percent to the XFL.

The league has to pay for ushers, ticket agents, police officers, security guards and other game day costs.

And it gets no break in payroll or earnings taxes.

The commission has added protective clauses, too: The contract requires the XFL to deposit $250,000 before each season, plus a $300,000 letter of credit, which the commission can tap if the XFL doesn’t pay up. Playoff games require a $50,000 non-refundable deposit to hold the space.

The commission is trying to motivate the XFL to sell more tickets, however: If attendance exceeds 10,000 for any single game, the commission will pay the XFL $1 per entry; if it passes 20,000, the rebate jumps to $2 per ticket.

The XFL likes the deal.

XFL Commissioner Football

Former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck is commissioner of the XFL, an eight-team professional football league that includes a St. Louis franchise. The XFL is scheduled to begin competition in 2020. (AP Photo)

“We had productive negotiations and feel that we came away with an agreement that is fair to all parties,” Commissioner Luck said in a statement to the Post-Dispatch. “We can’t wait to bring football back to St. Louis.”

And Dewey called it “very important.” Unlike the agreement with the Rams, the XFL has to work around the convention center’s schedule, not the other way around. The new league, he said, will fill in holes at an already-busy convention center.

The XFL season is scheduled to start in February 2020, after the NFL’s Super Bowl weekend. The teams will play a 10 week schedule, plus playoff games.

Editor's note: The CVC manages the Dome at America's Center. An earlier version incorrectly said it owned the venue.


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