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Thread: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

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    Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    Burwell: St. Louis needs to look at the big picture

    BY BRYAN BURWELL, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnistl
    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    There are plenty of headlines and stories that should spring out from Monday's public unveiling of the Rams' vision for renovating the outdated Edward Jones Dome. But this is the one that deserves top billing in giant boldfaced type.

    We now have undisputed evidence that Stan Kroenke really wants to keep the Rams in St. Louis.

    You won't find that wording in any of the 39-page plan that was submitted to the city by the Rams owner's negotiating team. But it's right there in plain sight, if you are fluent in the language of between-the-lines intimations. And if you didn't see it, you're probably just too busy being distracted by all the pretty illustrations, fretting over the preliminary price estimates or part of the shortsighted anti-stadium crowd that won't be happy until we're living in a pro sports-free ghost town.

    So allow me to decipher this for you. Look very carefully at the plan. It is not an over-the-top, ostentatious, football-only counteroffer that attempts to thrust the Dome to the very top of the National Football League's most extravagant stadiums. It's not an outrageous plan that feels like the sort of crazy counteroffer whose sole intent is to blow up the entire process, thus allowing Kroenke to scoot off to Los Angeles as quickly as possible.

    What the Rams have put in front of us is a design whose intent is to make the Edward Jones Dome something that works for all of St. Louis, not just the football team.

    If Kroenke was trying to force the Convention and Visitors Commission to storm away from the negotiating table, then this was a horrible attempt at doing that. What he did was submit a plan that fulfills its primary objective, which is to get the Dome into the NFL's "top-tier" facilities. By definition, the "top-tier" would have to be one of the best eight stadiums in the NFL. And if you scrutinize the Rams' plans and compare it to other current or planned stadiums around the league, the best estimate is that a rehabbed Edward Jones Dome would most likely be right around the sixth- or seventh-best facility.

    Since 2002, three NFL stadiums have been renovated and eight others have been or are being built, ranging in price from a low of $336 million for a five-year renovation project for the New Orleans Superdome to the big-ticket constructions of the San Francisco *****' new stadium that just broke ground ($1.2 billion) to the stadium for the Jets and Giants in the New Jersey Meadowlands that topped $1.7 billion in 2010.

    The best estimates on the cost for the Rams' renovation plans are somewhere from $500 million to $700 million. By comparison, new construction costs for stadiums have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. Average cost of new stadium construction between 2002 and 2008 (four stadiums) was $517.2 million. Since 2009, the average cost of four stadiums skyrocketed to $1.2 billion.

    So this doesn't sound like the plan of a man trying to get out of a deal. It's more like the plan of someone who is trying to invest in the city.

    And by the way, the new design addresses every major complaint from the fans about the current building. It improves the fan access into the Dome with wider entrances on all sides. The openness of the glass walls and skylight roof panel would turn a dank, dark building into one streaming with natural light. The state-of-the-art sound systems would dramatically improve the garbled noise that sounds like the voice of Charlie Brown's school teacher whenever music or voices are blaring on the current sound system.

    All the usual anti-stadium forces will try to convince people that no matter what we decide to do with this renovation, we're just aiding and abetting another rich man getting richer.

    But a far more accurate assessment of this situation is that the renovation of the Dome will help us as much, if not more, than it will help Kroenke. It will attract better conventions. It will attract Super Bowls. It will transform the Dome from an NCAA regional site and turn it into the sort of building that goes into the Final Four's regular rotation. It will attract bigger and better concerts.

    The evidence of that already is there in Indy, Dallas and New Orleans, which all got Super Bowls and Final Fours within two to four years of the completion of construction. In Minneapolis, where they haven't even broken ground yet, the NFL already is signaling that a Super Bowl could come their way by 2017.

    The comments from Jeff Rainford, Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff, are typical of the sort of short-sighted rhetoric you should expect to hear as the anti-stadium crowd lines up its key talking points. Rainford says the two-year renovation window would make it impossible to host large conventions. What he doesn't say is that the short-term loss would be well worth the long-term gain of being able to actually have a facility that can host huge events. What he doesn't say is how many large conventions the city loses every year because the Dome isn't competitive with newer, more spectacular facilities.

    And just so you know, the city wouldn't be the only one dealing with short-term losses during that two-year period. The Rams also wouldn't be able to play in the Dome during construction, either, which means they would have to look for a temporary home (Busch Stadium? Mizzou's Faurot Field?) and pay for it, too.

    But the Rams aren't thinking short term. They're thinking that for the next 25 years, St. Louis could stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Dallas, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Houston as an American athletics main attraction.

    And part of that long-term picture has to include the Rams being here for the next 25 years or so. We can argue later on about how much this will all cost and how (or if) the bill will be paid, but the one thing that must be a part of the approval for this renovation is a gigantic "yeah, but..." that was missing from the last lease agreement.

    If we're all going to agree to this, I want to know that we won't be doing this again any time soon. There better be a lengthy extension of the lease that guarantees the Rams will be the primary tenant for the next 25 years.

    If you read between the lines, you have to think they're willing to do that.
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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    I have never been to the Dome but I have few questions that hopefully a fellow clammer can answer:

    What was original cost of Dome?
    Was it built on the "cheap"?
    If yes, then why?
    if no, was it simply designed poorly?
    Was it ever a wonder to behold and shelf life is about 20 years??

    I ask honestly since some of the shortcomings seem to be around poor initial build out and planning....
    Thanks in advance to whomever can shed light here for me

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    Idk about the cost. But that dome puts you in the mind of a warehouse. It isnt well lit, there are only (i think) 3 entrances for fans and it takes a while to get in becuase all the secrurity. One time i sat in an area (forgot the level and number) were the "big screen" was very small and it was kinda hard to follow the game when it got to the other end of the field.... Or it could be my eyes are bad. Where as on the other side the screen is much much bigger.

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    That's because that screen was upgraded. The small one is the size both used to be. It's just out dated. It was not really built on the cheap.

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    All the usual anti-stadium forces will try to convince people that no matter what we decide to do with this renovation, we're just aiding and abetting another rich man getting richer.
    And here lies the biggest problem with St. Louis.......the politicians that run it. They buy into the "fairness" nonsense and therefore won't be happy until everyone is poor. The St. Louis politicians, and the anti-sports caucus in the Missouri legislature will be the biggest hurdles for this deal to get done.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    I found the dome to be pretty plain, but remember it's used as the convention room floor as well, so I think they wanted it that way. It took me a long time to find a Rams logo on the wall when I was there in 2006. I found the lighting pretty bad back then and the roof pretty low. There also didn't seem to be much room for tailgating, but I wasn't doing that, so I may be wrong on that one. I actually like the new design that was submitted by the team, it looks like it would be a lot better than what they have now.
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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    And here lies the biggest problem with St. Louis.......the politicians that run it. They buy into the "fairness" nonsense and therefore won't be happy until everyone is poor. The St. Louis politicians, and the anti-sports caucus in the Missouri legislature will be the biggest hurdles for this deal to get done.
    Thats bull. Its not about fairness, its about being broke. Its about investing tax dollars that improve the entire city, not just part of it. Its about getting our priorities straight. We can spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars on a new stadium while the city schools continue to ruin another generation of poor children. Its about renewing troubled neighborhoods and stopping the cycle of violence that the white people in the county prefer to ignore. Spending public money on that scale on a stadium is an insult to the very real and very much ignored problems of the city. See the other Burwell thread for an more extended explaination of why I am against it.

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

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    Ahhh c'mon! Already!
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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    Its not about fairness, its about being broke.
    You're broke, because of the misguided attempts of your politicians to implement "fairness". As for your schools, you already spend more per pupil than any area of the state, yet your schools lag behind. And go right ahead and let the Rams walk. Trust me, that will negatively affect every aspect of the city.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    You don't know what your talking about. It's not about fairness, it's about bad policy. I would never stick up for city politicians, they are ineffective to put it nicely. I won't deny that the Rams leaving will would be bad for the area, but that doesn't mean we should spend huge sums of tax payer money on what amount to welfare for a billionaire. St. Louis needs real solutions to real problems. Judging by the bombed out homes a few blocks from the dome, the benefits of the stadium are highly localized.

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    Actually, I know exactly what I'm talking about. And it appears that you agree the local politicians are making a mess of things.

    Look, this is quickly becoming more political than need be. I will leave it with this one statement: if the Rams leave St. Louis, then St. Louis will pay a far bigger price than a dome renovation will cost.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    Swatter, I understand your issue with what you call "walfare for a billionaire," however, you make it seem like Kroenke owns the Dome and is demanding that the City, County and State fix it up for him. This is not a Jerry Jones type situation, no matter how much you want to think it is.

    Firstly, as far as I know, the Rams own no part of the Dome, given that they pay rent every year for the use of the venue. Therefore, assumably, the City owns it. The Rams, as tenants have to abide by their side of the contract, just as the City does theirs. Therefore, money spent on the Dome is for the benefit of something that is owned by the people, not this billionaire, but more on that later.

    Second, the contract, to which everyone agreed to in 1995, was that the Dome would be kept as a top tier stadium. Can anyone say that it is? The Rams are within their right to ask that the City keep up its side of the deal. The same as you would expect a car company to stand behind their warranty or for your landlord to fix your house if you were renting. It is not the Rams' fault that St. Louis agreed to that clause, nor is it their fault that routine additions were not made through the intervening years that could have kept it a top 10 stadium.

    Third, the CVC's proposal had the Rams paying for more than half of the renovations despite not being owners of the Dome. Now, the team putting forth a fair share of its own money is customary and is reasonable, but make that sure you realize that it is actually the "horrible" billionaire whom is then giving the people millions of dollars to upgrade their bulding, not the other way around. The Rams' proposal does not include a cost estimate, nor a billing estimate either. They want to work out what the renovations will be, and then the costs can be analyzed, bidded, and more importantly, split.

    Now, I'm sure that Kroenke would be willing to pony up a bit more of his own share if he was given partial ownership of the Dome, and in doing so would give him a solid tie to the area and to the maintenance, upkeep, and continued improvement to the dome such that in addition to the Rams, tickets could be sold to more and better events. Just realize that in doing so, the CVC will lose some control over the Rams and will lose out on a portion of the proceeds from the Dome. Would you be ok in giving away 50% of all the revenue that the Dome provides in order to lessen the burden of the renovations for maybe an extra $100M?
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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    Setting the particulars aside about who owns or rents what, the issue on the table is to spend hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars to keep the Rams in St. Louis. I am not saying Stan is a bad man, I am simply stating that I cannot support so many tax dollars going to a stadium project while the rest of the city deteriorates around the central business district.

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    Quote Originally Posted by swatter555 View Post
    Setting the particulars aside about who owns or rents what, the issue on the table is to spend hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars to keep the Rams in St. Louis. I am not saying Stan is a bad man, I am simply stating that I cannot support so many tax dollars going to a stadium project while the rest of the city deteriorates around the central business district.
    Of course an upgraded dome, which is used for conventions, could also attract more conventions, pumping more money into the city, which would cause the wealth to flow outwards towards other areas of the city.

    I'm just pointing out that there are a lot of different factors to consider, it's pretty hard to break it down to just $ to stadium = less $ to everyone else.

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    Re: Burwell: St. Louis Needs To Look At The Big Picture

    I am from Southern California. Visited St Louis 2 Years ago. Can the downtown area of St Louis afford to lose the Rams. That stadium has got to be one of the biggest revenue makers to the city and business in downtown. If the Rams left you would see many business close shop within a year. If you lose the Rams I doubt you will ever see NFL football in your city. I would do what has to be done to keep them.

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