Always a major problem for St. Louis was finding an adequate football stadium. When the Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960, they played first at old Busch Stadium—also known as Sportsman’s Park. Later they played in the new multi-purpose Busch Stadium. Both facilities were home to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team as well, but neither stadium was good for attracting football fans. Consequently, the owner of the St. Louis Cardinals football team began pushing for a new downtown stadium or else he would move the team out of St. Louis. Following the 1987 season, he made good on his threats and relocated the team to Arizona.
Not having a professional team, St. Louis city officials began the process of trying to attract an NFL franchise back to their area. In 1991, they went after two new expansion teams but failed to acquire either team, so they began to lure an existing team with the promise of building a new football stadium to be their home. In 1992, construction started on a downtown domed stadium. In 1994 the Rams, who were looking for a stadium, left Los Angeles and moved to St. Louis.
The St. Louis Rams began the 1995 season in the old multi-purpose Busch Stadium before moving into the new domed facility on Nov. 12 of that year. At that time there were thirty-year bonds issued to pay for the new stadium, with the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County each paying $6 million per year for thirty years and the state of Missouri funding $12 million a year over a thirty-year period.
Today the stadium is known as the Edward Jones Dome, having been named after the St. Louis-based investment company who purchased the naming rights to the dome in 2002 for $2.65 million annually. The Jones Dome is owned by the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority. Having been built with tax dollars, the Jones’ Dome is dependent on pubic monies, unlike the new Busch Stadium that is funded primarily by the St. Louis Cardinals or the Scottrade Center that is maintained by the owners of St. Louis Blues professional hockey team.
When the Rams organization moved to St. Louis in 1995, they signed a thirty-year lease to play in the Dome, but the terms of the agreement allowed the team to move after the 2014 season if the Dome was not rated as a first-tiered NFL facility. Unfortunately, the Jones Dome is considered to be among the worse, if not the worst, NFL stadium in the country today. To help keep the Rams in St. Louis, the Stadium Authority offered a $124 million improvement plan—including a larger scoreboard and better seating—with the Rams picking up approximately half the cost. The team then countered with a proposal of upgrades for an estimated cost of $700 million. This figure includes costs for a new retractable roof. The matter went to arbitration with the decision favoring the Rams organization. This allows the Rams to break their lease following the 2014 season and either move or remain in St. Louis on a year-by-year contract basis.
Stadium authorities cannot come up with a long-term solution until they know whether the Rams will stay in St. Louis. The team is being lured back to Los Angeles with the promise of a new billion-dollar stadium. If they move back to California into a new stadium the estimated value of the Rams team would probably double.
Governor Nixon wants to keep an NFL team in St. Louis and has appointed two prominent St. Louis businessmen and civic leaders to lay out a state plan to present to the Rams organization in hopes of keeping the team in our state. Basically, it looks as if the governor has two options, build a new stadium or renovate the existing one. Either way, the cost is huge, and the state of Missouri is still responsible for paying the $12 million annually through 2025.
You will most likely be hearing more about this situation in the upcoming months. January 28, 2015 is the deadline for making a decision on the issue, and at this time, there is very little support in the General Assembly for putting any more state tax dollars into a professional sports team.