Updated to correct date of arbitrators' action, and again at 4:45 p.m. to include official letter.
The discussions between the St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission over the Rams' place of play, the Edward Jones Dome, have come to a crossroads - one that may leave St. Louis without an NFL team after the 2014 season.
The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, which operates the Edward Jones Dome, officially rejected today the upgrade plan selected by a panel of arbitrators, which mirrored one proposed by the Rams.
Kitty Ratcliffe, the president of the CVC, said the fact that the proposal relied 100 percent on public funding was a non-starter for St. Louis city, St. Louis County, and the state.
"There are a lot of needs that they have for the people who live here, and spending close to $900 million solely to have 10 football games wasn't deemed to be very prudent by anyone," she said. In addition, the Rams' proposal would have required extensive construction at the Dome, reducing the number of conventions to CVC could book.
A quick recap of how we got here:
- The lease signed by the Rams when they moved to St. Louis in 1995 required the CVC to keep the Edward Jones Dome in the top tier of football stadiums in the country. That same clause allows the team to leave after 2014 if that doesn't happen.
- In February 2012, the CVC unveiled a $124 million plan, which included more club seats and windows. The Rams rejected that option.
- Three months later, the Rams unveiled their own plan, which called for $700 million in upgrades. The CVC rejected that version, and unveiled a counter-proposal in August.
- After negotiations between the parties failed, the matter went in front of a panel of three arbitrators.
- In February, the arbitrators determined that upgrades of the magnitude outlined by the Rams would be required to make the Dome among the top eight in the league.
After that, the next move was up to the CVC, which had two options:
- Accept the plan, keeping the Rams in the Edward Jones Dome until the end of their lease in 2025.
- Reject the plan, allowing the Rams to terminate their long-term lease after the 2014 season and leave.
Today's decision was in line with comments made by Greg Smith, the CVC's attorney, back in February.
So what's next? Smith said it's likely the Rams will switch to a year-to-year lease on March 15, 2015 - and that "The Rams decision with regard to its plans beyond that date is of course up to them."
The Rams did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on their next step. Ratcliffe says anyone who is interested can present a stadium proposal to the Rams.
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