The St. Louis Rams' stadium proposal—counter-proposal, really—has been made public, and it's a doozy. It would run about $500 million on the low end, it involves tearing out the entire structure and facade of the recognizable side of the Edward Jones Dome, and it's not a serious attempt by the team to stick around in a city that has no reason to spend that much money to rehabilitate a stadium it's still paying down debt on. It involves rerouting Broadway, building a new facade and lower seating bowl, moving the playing field 50 feet west, and, practically, building a new stadium that sits on the same footprint as one that's less than 20 years old. More practically still, it involves the Rams proposing the kind of inevitably public expenditure that's justly become an anathema in the wake of the recent recession.
And if this is their best offer, more power to them—I hope Stan Kroenke enjoys it out west.
I'll say this for them: It's a beautiful stadium they'd like St. Louis to build them, devoid of the reflexive retro touches that have doomed the Edward Jones Dome and Busch Stadium to their status as some of the last ballparks in their sport to remain in thrall to the Camden Yards house style. This one's all glass and moving pictures and isn't a dome at all, but a stadium with a partially retractable roof.
But if you can spot the reused elements on this diagram, even when it points them out to you, you have a better architectural eye than I do:
In case you've forgotten, the original CVC proposal involved $124 million, an enormous new jumbotron, some new windows, and a new building providing for a special entrance for the people in the extra-expensive club seats. This one, if you believe the Rams' captive consultant, would cost something like $500 million.
Obviously negotiations are all about this kind of back and forth, and the CVC got itself into playing this game in the first place. But it's hard to imagine two sides being farther apart than the distance between adding a building and a big new entrance (and asking the club to pay half) and knocking down the wall that appears in all the Edward Jones Dome press photos and rebuilding the inner bowl of the stadium.
But here's the real problem: This shouldn't even be a debate we, you and I, are involved in. If the Rams want a gorgeous new stadium in downtown St. Louis, they should go ahead and build it. Football teams are enormously profitable, and the recent sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers shows that the increasing fragmentation of the TV market means they'll only get more valuable in the future. Stan Kroenke's worth $3 billion, and just tried to buy up another team because he felt like it; he could probably swing it.
But they won't go ahead and build it, because sports teams have become accustomed to earning enormous, unjustifiable subsidies from increasingly indebted cities and states—and, one middle-man over, the taxpayers of those cities and states, not all of whom are willing or especially able to pay a fee for the right to see the Rams go 2-13 and a Revitalized Downtown, the canard of every public stadium project, produce more sports bars with big Bud Light banners hanging over their facades.
The threat of moving teams—particularly to Los Angeles, but generally just moving them elsewhere, even to the suburbs—and the ignominy of being the elected official who didn't get his constituents the Super Bowl have combined to become a sleazy mechanism by which billionaires extract tax dollars under absurd claims of economic multipliers and vibrant downtowns eight times a year. This ought to stop, eventually, and St. Louis is as good a place as any to see it happen. If the Rams would like their fans to pay this ransom, they should contact them directly.