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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    Turf war pits Rams against the dome

    Turf war pits Rams against the dome
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Thursday, Feb. 17 2005

    And then there was one. The news earlier this week that Indianapolis is
    installing a new artificial surface in the RCA Dome leaves St. Louis as the
    last remaining NFL team with an AstroTurf field.

    That's one too many according to Rams officials, who are growing increasingly
    strident in their comments about the need for a new surface at the Edward Jones
    Dome.

    "We have to have a new (turf) in for next year," coach Mike Martz said. "If I'm
    a player, I want to have a new surface. I would refuse to play on that
    surface."

    In a separate interview, team president John Shaw even dropped the "L" word -
    as in litigation.

    When asked if there was a way to resolve the turf impasse between the Rams and
    the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC), Shaw replied: "Short of
    litigation, no."

    So are the Rams considering a lawsuit?

    After a pause, Shaw replied: "I just know that we need a new turf. This turf is
    obsolete. It's very disappointing that we can't change the turf. I just don't
    understand it. It's hard to argue that we can be a 'first-tier' facility and
    have this type of turf."

    As part of the stadium lease deal negotiated between the Rams and St. Louis
    officials a decade ago, the dome had to remain in the top 25 percent of stadium
    facilities in the NFL after 10 years - or remain a first-tier facility. If not,
    the Rams could move the franchise.

    On Thursday, Shaw reiterated that the team has no plans to exercise the escape
    clause in the lease. Several improvements already have been made in the dome.

    But NFL players regard the surface in St. Louis as well below first-tier
    status. In an NFL Players' Association survey released in Super Bowl week, the
    Edward Jones Dome surface was rated second-worst in the league, behind only
    Indy's soon to be replaced surface.

    "I'm disappointed we didn't finish No. 1," Martz said sarcastically.

    In his first comments to the Post-Dispatch on the topic, convention center
    director Bruce Sommer said: "There's no disagreement between us and the Rams
    about wanting to put in new turf."

    It's just not going to happen until a turf is designed that can be easily
    picked up and stored for non-football events.

    "It really is very simple," Sommer said. "We agree that for football purposes,
    that turf ought to be replaced. However, our contract is very clear. We don't
    replace it until there is a turf that we can take out (of the dome), so that we
    can do all of our other events.

    "And as of now, there isn't one out there. We and the Rams are talking to every
    company that's working on this stuff. We're very familiar with the (research
    and development) going on. We believe at some point in the not-too-distant
    future, somebody's going to have one. And that's when we'll replace it."

    Martz and Shaw dispute Sommer's logic.

    "If they want a new turf as much as we do, they'd do it." Martz said.
    "Obviously, the RCA Dome has proven that it can be done."

    In Indianapolis, funding was approved Monday allowing RCA Dome officials to
    spend up to $800,000 on a new surface, and an additional $900,000 for a hard
    cover to place over the turf during non-football events.

    Which in parts explains why Shaw says, "I think that the technology is good
    enough now to put a new turf in. So I don't really know what (Sommer) is
    talking about."

    The new generation of artificial turf is thicker and heavier than AstroTurf.
    Unlike AstroTurf, it can't be rolled up and removed to convert dome floors for
    non-football events.

    St. Louis' dome needs are somewhat unique, because workers occasionally need to
    drill into the concrete floor to provide mooring for some convention exhibits.
    "If we put a turf in there that does not allow us to anchor heavy equipment
    into the floor, we can't do big shows," Sommer said. "And that's just one
    example."

    Another issue is the need for electrical outlets. Many electrical outlets. It's
    a problem that can't be addressed simply by running a few extension cords to
    the edge of the floor.

    "When we put on a show on the dome floor, we can have a couple hundred
    exhibits," Sommer said. "So you can be talking about 300, 400, 500 electrical
    (cords), which just makes the floor really unsafe. You're creating a lot of
    trip hazards."

    So the outlets need to be near the exhibits.

    "There's all kinds of utilities we use," Sommer said. "We use steam. We use all
    sorts of things. So we have to get through the turf, or be able to get it out
    of there."

    Most of the dome's non-football business comes after football season. But not
    all of it. So simply covering the turf as will be done in Indy won't work
    during the season for conventions that need floor moorings, electrical outlets,
    etc.

    "The public needs to understand, if we were to do that (put in a FieldTurf
    surface), and lose our other business, you're talking about costing us millions
    of dollars every year," Sommer said. "That's huge."


  2. #2
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    Re: Turf war pits Rams against the dome

    I can see both sides of this and the CVC has a point with the money issue. However, the team will struggle to bring in FA with that turf. The turf that the CVC wants is years away. The Rams only play there 10-12 times A YEAR! Litigation would be a mess, and I'd think the courts would probably rule in favor of the CVC. It needs to be changed though.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Turf war pits Rams against the dome

    Does anyone remember some of us warning everyone not to get too comfortable with the Rams in St. Louis? This is just a reminder. I seem to recall the Rams putting up a huge fuss about stadium conditions when they were in Anaheim as a precursor to, and reason for, moving to St. Louis.

    If L.A. gets it's sh!t together and actually has a stadium/business plan in place and then waves millions of dollars under Georgia's nose...well, it's happened once already. To me, Georgia is on par with Al Davis in many ways and when the Raiders moved to L.A. I didn't ever think they'd move back to Oakland. I don't really think the Rams will move back to L.A. either. I didn't think they'd ever leave L.A. for that matter. The point is, you just don't know about some owners (Davis, Georgia) and what they're going to do.

    Georgia had the Rams for 10 years before moving to St. Louis. Now, she's had them 10 years in St. Louis and the team is clashing with dome officials, threatening litigation. Is it a smoke screen to bail out? Probably not, but it's a possibility.

  4. #4
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    Re: Turf war pits Rams against the dome

    This looks like litigation to me, but then again, it looks like the stadium lease "out" for the Rams is the right to move, not to force changes. I'm not sure what good any lawsuit by the team or the NFL could accomplish. Unless the St. Louis CVB gives in, this could be a catch-22 situation with the Rams in violation of NFL policy, and the EJD under no obligation to make any changes. The only leverage the Rams seem to have is the threat of a move, which would hit the EJD in the only place that hurts, the wallet. That's ultimately what this is all about, the almighty dollar.

    I've worked at a sports complex and there are remedies for facilitating the needs of a multi-use venue, but they can be expensive and create restrictions on certain events. Again, it all comes down to the bottom line and the politics of doing business. It will be very interesting to see how this all shakes out.

  5. #5
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    Re: Turf war pits Rams against the dome

    Ever play tackle football in the street? hell its fun untill you get the doctor bill

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