Originally written May 15, 2012 on Fox Sports Midwest:
ST. LOUIS Suddenly, there's a wish list with theworry. Suddenly, there are bullet points to go along with concern that the Ramscould begin packing after the 2014 season. Suddenly, there are sketches to showwhat a revamped Edward Jones Dome could look like to prevent a possible move toLA. Now the Rams' vision has a public identity. It's outlined in a thickcounterproposal to the offer from the St. Louis Convention & VisitorsCommission that Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster released Monday tocomply with the state's Sunshine Law. Civic leaders must ask themselves a critical question: What does being an NFLcity mean to them? It's important to consider, because the document shows how far apart the twosides remain in trying to make the Edward Jones Dome a "first-tier" NFLfacility by March 2015. A June 15 deadline before the issue enters arbitration draws closer by thehour. A compromise between the parties will require nuance to keep trucks boundfor a possible Los Angeles relocation away from Rams Park. Consider: The CVC's plan released in February calls for 124 million inimprovements of which the Rams would pay for 52 percent. Meanwhile, the team'sideal home presented in its plan includes bells and whistles such as a slidingroof, a restructured east side that would require rerouting part of BroadwayStreet and 6,000 additional seats to host a potential Super Bowl. The price of happiness? Estimated to be more than 700 million. "The leaders in St. Louis and Missouri need to determine if it's importantto them to have an NFL team in St. Louis, No. 1, and No. 2, what publicresources they're willing to commit to that effort," Marc Ganis,president of the Chicago-based sports business consulting firm SportsCorp, toldFOXSportsMidwest.com. "This is all (about) balance. It has to be played upagainst commitments to other infrastructure, public building projects. ... It'sreally a question against other construction in public facilities." It's also a question of pride and prestige: What, exactly, does it mean to havean NFL franchise? The Rams gave St. Louis a national identity with one of the best runs infranchise history. They were a combined 37-11 in the regular season from 1999to 2001 after four consecutive losing campaigns following their move from Los Angeles.The renaissance included one Super Bowl title and two NFC championships. Itmade Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt synonymous withone of the most efficient offenses the league has seen. But that era has faded, replaced by something far more forgettable. Boos andsparse crowds were common on home Sundays last season. At times, play on thefield was comical as the Rams eventually missed the playoffs for the seventhconsecutive year. The 2-14 record last season continued a trend of anemic football that won't beenshrined anytime soon: Since 2007, the Rams are 15-65 the worst five-yearstretch in NFL history. St. Louis has produced just one team that has finishedthe regular season with a winning record in the last 10 years. "The RAMS agree with the CVC's statements in the CVC 2012 Plans submittedFebruary 1, 2012, that the Facilities and the Components presently do not meetthe First Tier standards of the Amended Lease," Kevin Demoff, Rams chiefoperating officer, wrote to the CVC. "But, as evidenced by the RAMS'recent rejection of the CVC 2012 Plans, the RAMS disagree that theimplementation of the CVC 2012 Plans would result in the improvement of theFacilities and each of the specified Components to First Tier status." Lost in reaction to the Rams' plan is that negotiations come at a time whenother local professional teams have energized the region. The past year hasincluded bold breakouts and championship parades under the Gateway Arch, butthe Rams have missed the party. The Cardinals' 11th World Series title last fall became a symbol of resilienceand hope. World Series MVP David Freese, a St. Louis native, transformed intoan international star. On Monday, they entered play leading the National LeagueCentral and were six games above .500, making the Cards one of baseball's 2012 surprisesunder first-year manager Mike Matheny. Meanwhile, the Blues completed their best season in recent memory earlier thismonth. They earned 109 points in the regular season, three short of clinchingtheir first Presidents Trophy since the 1999-2000 campaign. They advanced tothe Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 2002. Recently, the Blues and Cardinals have given the city reasons to rally.Meanwhile, the Rams have given it reason to wonder if they'll stick around. Owner Stan Kroenke has been vague about the team's future if dome renovationsaren't made. This past January, the Rams agreed to play "home" gamesin London for the next three seasons. "Likely, this is going to go to arbitration," Ganis said. "Andthen an arbitrator is going to make a decision. Once the arbitrator makes adecision, it's going to be some dollar amount for St. Louis whether that'stheir number or the cost of the plan the Rams put forward. ... That's where thecity leaders should really have a pretty good idea before they go toarbitration what number they may be willing to accept and what the sources (offunding) will be." Yes, there's still time to keep the Rams in St. Louis. But on Monday, thepublic learned what it could take to make it happen.
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