ST. LOUIS - The agency that operates the Edward Jones Dome on Friday rejected an improvement plan for the 17-year-old stadium proposed by the St. Louis Rams.
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Arbitration begins if no agreement is reached by June 15, and the arbitration process could last through the end of the year.
The lease between the commission and the Rams requires that the dome be among the top quarter of all NFL stadiums before the 2015 season. If not, the team could break the lease and potentially become the second NFL team to leave St. Louis in a quarter of a century.
The dome, which opened in 1995 after the team relocated from Los Angeles, was built with money from city, St. Louis County and Missouri taxpayers.
The commission's rejection was not unexpected given the wide discrepancy between the Rams' plan and one submitted by it in February. That plan called for $124 million in improvements such as a bigger scoreboard and better club seating. It also would have required the Rams to pay 52 percent of the cost. Taxpayers would have to approve funding for the remaining 48 percent.
The Rams' counterproposal submitted May 1 was far more elaborate, calling for a new roof with a sliding panel, replacing much of the brick exterior with a glass front, even re-routing a nearby street.
The Rams did not provide a cost estimate but Jeff Rainford, chief of staff for Mayor Francis Slay, said the plan would cost about $700 million and the dome, which also hosts conventions, would have to be closed for renovation for up to three years, potentially costing the city $500 million in convention revenue.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press