Asking for the moon

Thanks to a spectacularly bad lease negotiated by St. Louis pols, the Rams have the right to a “top tier” stadium as long as they stay near the Gateway Arch. This week, St. Louis found out just what “top tier” (top eight) means. The City gulped and tabulated just how much it’ll cost for the Rams to stay there: $500-750 million.

A PDF of the proposal was acquired by the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It’s worth viewing if you want to follow along with the rest of the post. The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission put together its own $124 million proposal (PDF), which mostly touts the incremental improvements that have been made over the past several years.

Mind you, that won’t pay for an entirely new stadium. Instead, two-thirds of the Edward Jones Dome would be blown out, including the roof. Only parts of the upper deck and one side of concourses would remain. The field would be moved slightly to accommodate new seating, and completely new seating decks and concourses would be built in the other two-thirds of the stadium.

Old Edward Jones Dome cross-section compared to new dome roof/seating deck arrangement

Edward Jones Dome sits in a very tight block in downtown St. Louis, hemmed in by the America’s Center convention facility to the west and N. Broadway to the east. Expanding the footprint of the stadium would wipe out N. Broadway, which happens to be half of a major thoroughfare. The extra space consumed by the fattened stadium would be used for new team locker rooms and premium amenities. The cross-section of the stand looks a little too much like Mt. Davis for my liking, especially the enormous upper deck. Field suites and field level clubs are a must-have.

Amazingly, the Rams’ proposal doesn’t include either a retractable roof or a Dallas-style center-hung scoreboard. The roof will have a panel that can slide open to let in more light, like a sunroof on a car. New scoreboards would be placed in the corners, replacing the end zone scoreboards that are not even three years old. I’m surprised by this. The team has the city over a barrel. They’re already asking for the moon, why not get some asteroids on the side while you’re at it?

I’ve never seen a game in person at the Trans World/America’s Center/Russell Athletic/Edward Jones Dome, so I can’t directly speak to how good a stadium it is. I’ve heard the field is poorly lit for some reason. I know it can get very loud inside. The concourses are wide, and the amenities fairly plush, befitting a $280 million stadium built in the mid-90’s. The top tier clause allows the Rams to escape the Gateway City after the 2014 season, which means the race is on to figure out a solution, or else owner Stan Kroenke could easily look elsewhere – like LA. The only thing that may give Kroenke pause is AEG’s insistence that it get a minority share of any relocated franchise in exchange for building the downtown LA stadium. Regardless, LA poses a significant threat, even though Kroenke is a born-and-bred Missourian.

The Rams don’t quite have the Mayflower trucks at the loading docks yet. Their proposal and one from the CVC will go to arbitration in the next year or so. Whatever the arbiter decides is the winning proposal, the County will have the option to commit to that package of improvements. If they do, the Rams will be locked in through at least 2025. If not, the Rams will have those trucks idling and ready to go.

As large and unnecessary as the Rams’ proposal sounds, it would be at best a top-four NFL stadium, surpassed technically by Cowboys Stadium and MetLife Stadium, and the AEG stadium if that comes to fruition. EJD and the Georgia Dome (1992) kicked off the boom era of new NFL stadia construction, so it’s not surprising that both were the first to be considered outdated by the league.

My question about any kind of NFL stadium expenditure, as usual, is How can anyone justify the cost? Let’s say that the project costs $700 million. Over 30 years at 7%, that’s $52 million per year in debt service. To make it worthwhile, the Rams and St. Louis would have to get an additional $100 million in new direct revenue every year. The stadium will compete with other domes for Final Fours and will continue to function as an extension of America’s Center, so that helps a bit. But most of the steady revenue will come from football games and related activities. To put it in perspective, the Rams are 30th among the 32 franchises in revenue at $228 million in 2011, according to Forbes. If they get another $100 million and apply it to 2011, they would catapult to #4 in the league, ahead of both New York teams. Does that seem likely, given the tiny St. Louis market and the Rams’ second banana status within the market? I doubt it.

15 thoughts on “Asking for the moon

  1. One big problem the Rams have is, they are (And always will be) second fiddle in St Louis to the Cardinals (A very different situation than say with the Vikings in Minnesota). I think a big reason why the NFL pushed so hard to have the Vikings stay put, is they needed a landing spot for the Rams if they don’t stay at Edward Jones (And a return to LA could be that spot). What happens here may have a huge effect on Oakland (The Raiders are obvious. but the A’s as well). Right now, the ball is in Mark Davis’s lap. We know that eventually the Davis Family has to do something with the Raiders because of the Inheritance Tax issue. If I was Davis, I would hope the Rams do not announce they are moving until at least after the election (Which makes sense, from all parties concerned, because you want to know what the tax situation going forward (This is not just Obama v Romney, but the California elections because of the real possibility of taxes going up if the Democrats take away the two Republican Seats needed to make everything Filibuster proof)). In addition to this, you have the possibility of a Jean Quan recall election, and in 2013, the end of the A’s Lease in Oakland. Which sets up the nightmare scenario for the A’s: Since I am sure Davis does not want to share an Oakland Stadium with the A’s (See Mt. Davis), the only way he will stay, is the A’s go. That means no San Jose or even remaining in Oakland at some other site (Where would they play if it can’t be the Coliseum until a Stadium gets built?). If this occurs, the Giants are big winners, so is Davis (He does not have to sell part of the team), MLB does not have to make an unpopular decision, Oakland at least keeps a team (the Raiders), and the A’s and their fans lose because of an increased possibility of consolidation.

  2. I, too, was blown away by the Rams proposal. The proposed stadium looks like it would be a horrible place to watch a football game . . . or any event, for that matter.

    At least the club level concourse in the proposed East stand appears to have a view of the field, unlike the club level at Mount Davis.

    It seems to me that it would be cheaper to just give the Rams the money than to spend it on the venue (similar to what Louisiana used to do for the Saints).

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out, though. The Rams used to play 20 miles from my boyhood home (when they were at the Big A), but I was never a fan.

    Is it true that the Raiders’ lease ends at the end of the 2013 season?

  3. @Pudgie – Both teams’ leases expire after their respective 2013 seasons. The City of Oakland may be forced to choose one over the other due to planning for a future stadium.

  4. If the City of Oakland has an option, that choice will be the Raiders. There is a lot more value in the name “Raiders” than “A’s” or “Athletics” to Oakland (Not to mention fan interest). One thing we have determined is Davis has little interest in sharing a Stadium with the 49ers (And I can’t blame him, ask the Jets about it), which keeps Oakland in the game. One big problem is Jean Quan. Even if she does not get recalled, she may move even further to the left of Berkeley, out of sheer desperation to get re-elected, and if that occurs, it might mean higher taxes, giving in to Public Sector Unions (Check out her rally sponsored by those same unions), letting hooligans like “Occupy Oakland get away with murder , and giving the finger to business. If that occurs, Davis may have no choice but to move to LA, and although the NFL may not like it, they will understand and let him go.

  5. @ David Brown – “We know that eventually the Davis Family has to do something with the Raiders because of the Inheritance Tax issue.” Due to the use of your word “Inheritance,” I’m not sure if you’re referring to state-level taxes or not (that word is used often with state taxes) but, if you are, California’s was phased out. If you’re referring to the Federal level “Estate Tax,” I’m quite certain Al Davis had estate planning in place prior to his death on 10/8/11. If he didn’t that would cause problems when the spouse dies but not now. Assuming he had planning in place he most likely left his estate to his wife, which would not trigger Estate Taxes until she dies. What would have likely happened is assets would have been put into multiple trusts, including one that would go directly to Mark tax-free when his mother dies. Moreover, in 2011 the step-up was reinstated, meaning the estate values on 10/8/11 are locked in. These values become the basis for future valuation of assets. When the 2nd spouse dies the beneficiary will have 9 months to pay any taxed owed, which can be extended not beyond 12 months. I would be willing to bet all of this is moot anyway because Al Davis would have surely planned for this eventuality while he was alive to minimize or even avoid taxes, typically utilizing insurance and charitable policies.

  6. @ ml Not sure how you reached the conclusion MetLife is a top three stadium technically. Probably the most disappointing football stadium I’ve visited.

    • @bartleby – It’s not a good stadium in terms of game experience. As far as checking the boxes that the NFL asks for revenue generation, it more than complies. I don’t think that any of the new stadia are better for simply watching a game. They make very good ATMs though.

  7. no worry whatsoever, Quan will call a presser on Monday to announce that she has come up with a plan for new arena . no problems /s

  8. This news should not shock anyone, all it does is strengthen Mark Davis’s hand even more. If there are no more Oakland Raiders, than Oakland will have taken another step into becoming Camden, New Jersey West. Also known as the garbage pit of America across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge from Philadelphia. I wonder if this will be a wake up call to Jean Quan and her buddies at SEIU? Probably not. Extreme liberals (Who like to call themselves “Progressive” are ANYTHING but that. They simply move further left oblivious to reality). Of course, her friend the Governor “Moonbeams” is not helping her keep private sector jobs either (Like when he screwed the A’s as Mayor).

  9. @ David Brown — Huh?

  10. So long Coliseum City.

  11. First off, St. Louis is not at all “tiny”. There are close to 3 million people in St. Louis. Second of all, anyone that says that St. Louis is losing this team for lack of support is full of it. They have NO clue. The ONLY reason the Rams leave is because of the TERRIBLE lease written by desperate pols back in the 90s. It was a HUGE mistake for the NFL not to give St. Louis a team. Jax did not deserve one over STL and that is being proven now. LA should have kept the Rams and STL should have gotten the expansion team. I think LA should get the expansion team now or move the Jags. If theres a will theres a way to get out of JAX. I see Rams and CVC going to arbitration and the lease being squashed. What happens after that is up in the air. Hopefully, they come to an agreement. STL deserves a team, regardless of what ANYONE says. We have supported a loser and the relocation rumors have nothing to do with bad fans.

  12. The Rams want out of St. Louis and the Edward Jones Dome. I think its pretty obvious. And the fact Kroenke and AEG have such close ties should be even more troubling for St. Louis. The Rams would instantly become one of the highest value franchises in the league playing in LA, and if they are indeed playing in Farmer Field I can’t see any scenario under which they would choose St. Louis. What St. Louis needs to ask itself is, what advantage would the Rams have playing there over LA? St. Louis is a tiny market compared to LA, attendance there is among the league’s worst and there is only lukewarm fan interest in the team in St. Louis. The Rams belong in Southern California anyway. The NFL needs to get out of failed football markets like St. Louis, Jacksonville and Oakland.

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