Rams want field at Dome to be replaced - and they'll pay for it
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Dec. 29 2004
They are called "first-tier" provisions. And as part of the stadium lease that
the Rams negotiated with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC)
a decade ago, the Edward Jones Dome had to remain among the top 25 percent of
NFL stadiums after 10 years, or else.
Or else the Rams could move elsewhere.
Ten seasons have come and gone. The Rams and officials with the CVC have spent
the past couple of years touring new stadiums and working on a list of
improvements to keep the Dome among the top eight of the 32 NFL stadiums.
Much work has already been done. According to Larry Deskins, chairman of the
St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Authority (RSA), $5 million to $7
million already has been spent to upgrade luxury suites and club seats. Work is
also under way to upgrade the sound system.
As for a new artificial turf, well, that issue remains stuck in neutral. And
has been for some time. But it has become an issue in recent weeks, largely
because of rookie running back Steven Jackson's sore right knee.
Jackson is the future of the St. Louis running game. He has been the feature
back in two Rams games this season, carrying a heavy workload of more than 20
carries against San Francisco on Dec. 5 and against Philadelphia on Monday.
Both games were played at the Dome; and in both games, Jackson couldn't finish
the contest after banging his knee on the artificial surface too often.
"The turf is pretty bad," Jackson said after rushing for a career-high 148
yards against Philadelphia. "It's like you're taking two hits on every play,
basically. Your opponent hits you, and then the turf does. There's not too much
give to it."
Jackson suffered a bruised right knee and a slightly torn ligament against San
Francisco. That caused him to miss the game against Carolina the following week
and, according to a Rams official, may have contributed to Jackson not playing
Jackson returned to play against Philadelphia, but once again left in the
fourth quarter because of a bruised knee. Jackson is expected to play against
After the Eagles game Martz went on the offensive on the subject of the Edward
Jones Dome turf. "Steven had a sore knee to begin with and then he banged it on
that hard surface," Martz said. "It's like cement. ... That surface, by the
way, really does need to be changed. It's just a shame that you have guys that
make all this kind of money, such great athletes, playing on a horrible surface
like that. For both teams, home and away, it's just awful. It's disgraceful,
Apparently, it's not getting any better with age. One Rams player told the
Post-Dispatch that he noticed "divots" in the turf for the first time before
the Philadelphia game. By divots, he meant small dips, or valleys, in the
The same player said he was told by Eagles players that one reason Philadelphia
coach Andy Reid decided to rest some starters and pull others early in the game
was concern over the surface.
On Tuesday, Martz made the surprising statement that the Rams would be willing
to pay for a new turf.
"That's news to me," said Deskins.
But on Wednesday, Rams president John Shaw confirmed what Martz had said.
"We've proposed to pay for the turf, even though I think it's covered under the
first-tier (lease) provisions," Shaw said. "We'd like to have a new turf. We'd
like to have it put in immediately."
But money isn't the issue.
"From our standpoint, we have the money for FieldTurf," said Deskins, of the
RSA. "It's set aside. But this is really CVC's issue. They're the ones that
have to request the new field and go out and decide which one they want, and
when it gets installed, etc."
The Regional Convention and Sports Authority owns the Dome. It is responsible
for paying for any of the stadium improvements mandated in the lease agreement
with the Rams.
The Convention and Visitors Commission basically is the landlord, running the
building and negotiating with the Rams on the improvements.
According to Deskins, until the CVC makes a request, the RSA cannot provide the
money for the turf. Attempts by the Post-Dispatch this week to reach CVC
officials for comment were unsuccessful.
Although pointing out that he was not speaking for the CVC, Rams executive vice
president Bob Wallace is familiar with that group's position on the turf issue.
He said it is a technology and convention issue, not a money issue. The current
Astro Turf surface in the dome can be rolled up and stored fairly easily to
convert the dome into floor space for a boat show, a large convention, or an
NCAA Tournament basketball game.
However, the FieldTurf surface is much heavier and unwieldy. It's much thicker
than Astro Turf and is weighted down by sand and bits of rubber.
"If you tried to roll it up, that stuff will fall out," Wallace said.
Some indoor stadium complexes that have recently converted to FieldTurf, or
FieldTurf-type surfaces, simply cover the surface for other events.
"But the covering is very expensive, and it doesn't necessarily satisfy what
(the CVC's) needs are," Wallace said. "Which is to get to the concrete flooring
underneath for setup."
More specifically, for electrical outlets, but also occasionally drilling holes
in the concrete floor for moorings.
Wallace said artificial turf companies are working on technology to slide
FieldTurf-type surfaces in and out of multipurpose stadiums.
"The field is a big issue for us," Wallace said. "Because competitively, in
free agency, you're trying to attract players. And playing on one of the more
antiquated surfaces in the league is not the most attractive thing."
The Edward Jones Dome and the RCA Dome in Indianapolis are the only remaining
AstroTurf surfaces in the NFL.
Shaw said the Rams aren't moving.
"We have absolutely no interest in moving the football team," he said. "We have
a single goal, which is to have the best facility on a continued basis that we
can have. That way, the fan experience is a positive, good experience, and the
stadium remains financially competitive with other stadiums. We have no other
purpose. ... We're not looking to 'jackpot' anybody on this."
Re: Rams want field at Dome to be replaced - and they'll pay for it
This is kind of sad. It needs to be replaced and, for once, money isn't an issue, politics is. I bet the turf will be replaced, but it will probably take a while for the CVC to agree to it.