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  1. #1
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    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
    in Arizona.

    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
    the Jets.

    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,
    really."

    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
    surface.

    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."


  2. #2
    DJRamFan Guest

    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.

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