Commission must present Rams with dome plan soon

ST. LOUIS -- Fans are wondering about the Rams' fate as a deadline for a plan to upgrade the team's home approaches.

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Next Wednesday, Feb. 1, is the deadline for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission to outline how it will transform the Edward Jones Dome into a "first-tier" stadium by 2015. If it fails to do so, the Rams can break their lease -- and potentially move -- after the 2014 season.

The commission has been meeting with city and county officials for several weeks on how to upgrade the dome and how to pay for it. No one is discussing details. Messages left with mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, and with St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley's spokesman, Mac Scott, weren't returned.

Commission president Kathleen Ratcliffe declined to comment. The commission said in a statement that the likelihood of success "is enhanced when the parties can make a frank exchange of information, on an ongoing confidential basis."

Los Angeles is seeking an NFL team. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is a Missouri native and played a pivotal role in bringing the team to St. Louis 17 years ago. But he owns an estate in Malibu, reportedly is interested in buying the Los Angeles Dodgers and has been noncommittal about the future of his football team.

Adding to the worry was the announcement this month that the Ramswould play a "home" game in London each of the next three seasons. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly has spoken of possibly locating a team in London one day, and Kroenke is a majority shareholder in English soccer club Arsenal.

Kroenke didn't return messages seeking comment. Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff also declined to comment Wednesday.

The lease agreement keeps the Rams in St. Louis through 2025 -- but allows the lease to be broken every 10 years unless the dome is judged to be in the "first tier," or top 25 percent, of all stadiums. About $30 million in publicly funded improvements persuaded the Rams to maintain the lease after the 2005 marker.

After the commission presents its plan, the Rams have until March 1 to accept or reject the offer. Arbitration would begin June 15 if no agreement is reached, and the arbitration process could last through the end of the year.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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