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Rams want new turf, more suites at Dome
By R.B. Fallstrom
Associated Press Sportswriter
Friday, Oct. 01 2004
At the end of this season Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce will have played on
the lightning-fast artificial turf at the Edward Jones Dome for a decade, and
he has the unsightly turf burns to prove it.
"They're not permanent," Bruce said, displaying various spots of discoloration
on his arms. "They'll go away."
So will the carpet-over-concrete field that most players hate, and soon, if the
Rams have their way.
The initial lease the Rams signed with the city, St. Louis County and the state
of Missouri as part of their move from the West Coast in 1995 contained a
provision that called for the deal to be revisited every 10 years. Each decade,
the dome must be judged to be in the top 25 percent of NFL stadiums in several
components, topped perhaps by the number and condition of suites and club
seats, or else the lease reverts to a year-to-year proposition.
Now is that time.
The Convention and Visitors Commission, the landlord of the building, and the
stadium authority are in the process of completing $4-5 million in improvements
to the dome's 120 suites, according to Bruce Sommer, director of the America's
Center. That's not enough for the Rams, who want perhaps 60 more suites in
addition to a new playing surface.
There's virtually no danger of the Rams leveraging the terms of the lease for
another move. Both sides report no animosity in discussions. The Rams say
simply that they want the best facility possible.
"I don't think anybody has that interest," Sommer said of a possible departure.
"I don't believe they have an interest in leaving and we sure don't have an
interest in them leaving."
The Rams have become entrenched in what has long been described as a baseball
town. Since they arrived, every regular-season game has been sold out.
"This is not an escape clause," said Bob Wallace, the Rams' executive vice
president and general counsel.
What it is, Wallace said, is smart business.
"It's not that you dictate terms," Wallace said. "One of the things everybody
was trying to do, and it was clearly the intention of the Rams and I think of
the negotiating parties of St. Louis, was they didn't want to build a beautiful
building and then have it fall into disrepair."
Wallace said Busch Stadium, the Cardinals' 38-year-old well-maintained stadium
just across downtown, is an example of forward-thinking stadium management.
Busch was among a number of so-called cookie-cutter facilities opened in the
1960s, and it's the last one still standing - although next season will be its
last - because the team's new ownership has been diligent on upkeep along with
cosmetic upgrades such as a hand-operated scoreboard.
The biggest problem for the dome landlords is that 17 new stadiums, counting
the renovation of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, have opened since the Rams beat
the Carolina Panthers 28-17 on Nov. 12, 1995, before 65,598 in the inaugural
game at the $300 million dome. In other words, the standards just keep going
"They have a preservation fund, they knew they were going to have to keep the
stadium in repair," Wallace said. "But I don't know if anybody contemplated
that much of a change that quickly."
Topping the Rams' wish list is a desire for perhaps 60 more luxury suites that
could be installed in the now little-utilized north end zone. Presently, that
area is used as an auxiliary press box but it was mentioned in the original
lease as a location for potential improvements.
The Rams also have issues with the seating capacity of the dome - about 5,000
shy of NFL standards even back in 1995. And Wallace said the size of the dome
itself and its concourses is not "top tier," although there's little that can
be done with that now.
"In this period of time," Wallace said, "we're not even going to raise that
Under terms of the lease, the improvements must be completed by March 31,
although the Rams have given approval to an extension to July 31. The
Convention and Visitors Commission would like the deadline to be delayed
further to 2007, and Wallace said the Rams are willing to wait till then.
Replacing the turf would be the biggest thing players would notice. The Rams
have a forgiving practice field at Rams Park, constructed of rubber shavings,
and they'd like one installed at the dome. St. Louis and Indianapolis are
presently the only NFL teams still using the old, unforgiving, artificial turf.
"You pay a price for playing on it," Bruce said. "If they get rid of it I'd
like to have a piece of it to take home with me. But I like the new stuff.
"You don't have the same feeling after you play on artificial turf."
The sticking point is an item in the lease that stipulates the grass does not
have to be changed because it would hinder the dome's ability to hold
conventions and trade shows. While the Rams are on the road the next two weeks
Ace Hardware is holding its national convention at the dome.
The problem is protecting the field when the Rams aren't in town. Artificial
turf can be rolled up and so-called field turf cannot under present technology.
Thus far, Sommer said the Rams haven't asked for a new field.
"They've mentioned it, but we haven't dealt with the issue," Sommer said. "I'm
sure there are other things we're going to do, but all we know for sure is what
we have now."
It's likely the field demand will be issued soon.
"The playing field is a big issue," Wallace said. "We want to replace it and we
think it's a big issue for a competitive reason as well. That's a hard surface,
I think it's terrible, and that's something we would like addressed for next
Re: Rams want new turf, more suites at Dome
When we took our football to team to scrimmage Hart in Valencia, CA the stadium they played at had the new rubber turf...really cool stuff...and still faster than regular SOD
Re: Rams want new turf, more suites at DomeOriginally Posted by R.B. Fallstrom
Re: Rams want new turf, more suites at DomeOriginally Posted by afrightertoo
Agreed...take care of the players first!
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