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  1. #1
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    Cool Dome authority wants say in Rams negotiations

    Dome authority wants say in Rams negotiations
    By Christopher Tritto
    St. Louis Business Journal
    Updated: July 16, 2004
    Officials with the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority are questioning a proposed amendment to the St. Louis Rams' lease of the Edward Jones Dome and want a direct role in negotiations of stadium upgrades.

    Sports Complex Authority officials said a recently negotiated agreement between the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC) and the Rams has the potential to bankrupt the public fund established to pay for stadium improvements, threaten the long-term viability of the Dome and jeopardize the Rams' future in St. Louis.

    The proposed amendment to the lease, submitted by the CVC to the Authority in a letter dated June 8, would allow the Rams to request any stadium improvements team owners deem necessary to keep the Dome among the top 25 percent of all NFL facilities. The CVC seeks immediate approval of the amendment, although the Rams are not expected to provide their list of improvements until Sept. 1.

    Authority Chairman Larry Deskins and Executive Director Kent Underwood said the CVC would then be obligated to carry out those upgrades using Authority funds, regardless of cost. If the CVC fails to meet the team's demands, the Rams could be released from their 30-year lease as early as next July -- 20 years ahead of schedule.

    But a lawyer for the CVC said Deskins and Underwood have misinterpreted the amendment language.

    "The document does not commit the CVC or the stadium Authority to any specific components of the list that the Rams will be submitting in September," said Greg Smith, an attorney with Husch & Eppenberger LLC who represents the CVC. "We'll negotiate that. It does not create any kind of commitment to agree to a list we have not seen."

    Neither Kim Tucci, chairman of the CVC, nor Carole Moody, president of the CVC, could be reached for comment.

    The CVC's proposal cannot be accepted without Authority approval. The Authority, created in 1988 to raise funds for land acquisition and construction of the Dome, is charged with protecting the taxpayer money used to pay off bonds issued by the state, county and city. It also appropriates public preservation funds for stadium maintenance and upgrades.

    But Deskins and Underwood have been excluded from participating in the Rams' lease negotiations since January. The CVC leases the Dome from the Authority and subleases the stadium to the Rams.

    "The CVC is the lessor with the Rams and has the responsibility for all subleasing for all users of the facilities and is appropriately the primary party to deal with these issues," Smith said. "The Authority's responsibility is to make appropriations from the preservation funds on request from the CVC."

    In a July 13 letter to the CVC's Tucci and Moody, Underwood listed several concerns about the proposed amendment's lack of specificity. The amendment has not been presented to the Authority's 11-member board of commissioners.

    "Without more, the Authority can neither evaluate nor predict its ability to meet the time and financial requirements of this project," Underwood wrote. He also requested a meeting with CVC officials.

    "We would like to be included in the negotiations (with the Rams) and be fully engaged," Deskins told the Business Journal. "We are custodians of the fund and have a budget. We firmly believe if all parties are reasonable we can come to a solution that will satisfy everyone. But we have always been concerned about the bifurcated process the mayor's (St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay) office has insisted on. The piecemeal approach rarely works in any negotiation."

    Under the terms of the Rams' 30-year lease, the CVC is required to maintain the Dome as a "first-tier" NFL venue. That means that every 10 years, the stadium must rank among the top 25 percent of all NFL facilities.

    If the CVC and Rams cannot agree on "first-tier" improvements within the Authority's available budget by next July 31, the Rams could be freed from their 30-year lease and convert to a year-to-year lease, according to bond documents.

    With the deadline approaching to measure the Dome against the standard, the CVC's proposed amendment would greenlight an unspecified set of improvements to the stadium's box suites; club seats and lounge; lighting, sound and communications systems; and the playing field. It also would provide CVC approval of an additional unspecified list of improvements from the Rams on Sept. 1 based on what the Rams owners would deem necessary for the Dome to meet the "first-tier" standard next July, Deskins and Underwood told the Business Journal. Those additional upgrades would have to be completed by July 31, 2007.

    Underwood and Deskins said the amendment is too open-ended for their consideration.

    The Authority receives $4 million a year in taxpayer funds to maintain the Dome as well as pay for "first-tier" upgrades. As with the Dome's construction bonds, half of that money comes from state coffers and the remaining 50 percent is funded equally by St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis.

    Authority officials have budgeted more than $20 million to implement "first-tier" improvements between 2003 and 2008. That amount is based on recommendations made by consultant Ron Labinski, a founder of a Kansas City-based facility design firm HOK Sport+Venue+Event. The Authority paid for Labinski's report after the CVC and the Rams approved the Authority's selection of Labinski, Deskins and Underwood said.

    Since the Dome opened in November 1995, 17 new or renovated NFL facilities have been completed across the country.


  2. #2
    general counsel Guest

    Re: Dome authority wants say in Rams negotiations

    It would be interesting to know what upgrades to the dome the rams had in mind. Note of course that the only reference is to upgrades in the private suites, a sad but true reality regarding where the revenue comes from. Revenue from the gate is shared by the owners, suite revenue, i believe, is not. If i am mistaken about that, please someone correct me.

    ramming speed to all

    sign the big man

    general counsel

  3. #3
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    Re: Dome authority wants say in Rams negotiations

    Not just the private suites.

    The Rams want to upgrade the video and score board stuff to make it like the seahawks screen (bloody huge) plus they want to change the surface to grass

  4. #4
    general counsel Guest

    Re: Dome authority wants say in Rams negotiations

    What effect would a change to grass have on us? would it slow us down? i assume you mean the kind of grass/turf that detroit has.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel

  5. #5
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    Re: Dome authority wants say in Rams negotiations

    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel
    What effect would a change to grass have on us? would it slow us down? i assume you mean the kind of grass/turf that detroit has.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel
    yep they are also looking at the stuff put down by washington huskers (is it the same as the lions?)

  6. #6
    OrlandoPaceIsMyHero Guest

    Re: Dome authority wants say in Rams negotiations

    The "grass stuff" is "FieldTurf" or something close to that I believe. Two rather wealthy high schools near me have it, and I have played a bunch of times on the stuff as a high school football player. Pretty sure the lions have it... some colleges do too.

    It is basically short, plastic (though soft) grass with these weird black rubber pebbles under it. It feels really fast (compaired to grass with mud under it anyway) but doesn't have the "ouch" factor of Astroturf, like the Rams have, where you get cut up real bad and bruised when you fall on it because it is just a concrete floor with a green painted carpet on top. The only complaint you can make about this fieldturf stuff is that the little black pebbles (rubber) fly up and get in your clothes and eyes (if you head gets slammed into the ground)... but other than that, its perfect for indoor stadiums!

    OPIMH

  7. #7
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    Re: Dome authority wants say in Rams negotiations

    The only problem as far as I know is that it can not be lifted. Thats whats stopping it going down at the Ed

  8. #8
    general counsel Guest

    Re: Dome authority wants say in Rams negotiations

    Will cows eat it?

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel

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