Category Archives: Stadiums

The Chicago Cubs Face Serious Backlash In Building A 6,000-Square-Foot Jumbotron At Wrigley Field

The Cubs want only what almost every other MLB team already has:  A Jumbotron.  Part of a proposed $500-million renovation plan to the 99-year-old Wrigley Field includes placing a 6,000-square-foot video screen in Wrigley’s left field.  Along with enhancing the viewing experience of Cubs game attendees at Wrigley Field, Cubs officials assert that the Jumbotron will provide another key element:  revenue.  Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts recently asserted that advertising placement on the Jumbotron could create up to $20 million annually in revenue. This revenue would help pay for the costs of the proposed $500 million renovation.

Given the enhanced viewing experience and revenue generation it would create, what’s not to like about the proposed 6,000-square-foot Jumbotron being placed in Wrigley’s left field?  As it turns out, there is nearly as much not to like as there is to like.

The biggest opponents to the placement of the jumbotron are a group of rooftop owners whose buildings surround Wrigley Field.  For over two decades, these rooftop owners have been a thorn of sorts in the Cubs’ side.  The contention between the rooftop owners and the Cubs began when rooftop owners began selling packages to view Cubs games from the rooftops, while also providing amenities like food and beverages and telecast views of the games.  Many of these ticket packages exceeded $100 in costs, with the Cubs receiving no cut of the money.

After another renovation proposal was rejected, wherein the Cubs sought to add additional bleacher space to Wrigley Field, in 2002, the ball club sued a group of the rooftop owners.  The lawsuit, in federal court, asserted four causes of action:  copyright infringement, trademark infringement, misappropriation and unjust enrichment.  In its lawsuit, the Cubs noted that the rooftop owners created million-dollar businesses by charging individuals for entry onto their rooftops to watch Cubs games.  The Cubs asserted that the rooftop owners’ businesses were built on the backs of the millions of dollars the Cubs invested in building a team and maintaining Wrigley Field.  Not only did the rooftop owners not provide the Cubs a cut of their revenues, but they had not obtained copyright or trademark licenses from the club, which the team asserted were necessary for the rooftop owners to profit off of selling opportunities to view the games.

The Cubs’ lawsuit resulted in a settlement agreement, in which the rooftop owners and the team signed a 20-year agreement, whereby the owners give the Cubs 17 percent of their gross revenue annually.  This gross revenue amounts to an estimated $2 million per year.  While this settlement agreement provided the Cubs with an additional $2 million in revenue and at the time, a solution to one of the team’s greatest dilemmas, it may now create new problems for the ball club.

The rooftop owners who were part of the settlement agreement assert that building a Jumbotron that blocks their view amounts to a breach of the settlement agreement.  The owners claim that if the Jumbotron blocks their rooftops’ view, it will dismantle their businesses.  This is because the rooftop owners assert that without a clear view into Wrigley Field, patrons will not pay to watch the games from their rooftops.  Thus, the rooftop owners assert that any action taken by the Cubs to thwart their view into Wrigley Field during the term of the 20-year settlement agreement constitutes a breach of the settlement agreement.

The terms of the settlement agreement were reached out of court, and thus, are private.  Hence, it is unclear what licenses, rights or assurances the Cubs granted the rooftop owners.  Knowing what, if any, licenses, rights or assurances the Cubs granted the rooftop owners is necessary to determine whether the rooftop owners could file a lawsuit to successfully block the team from building the Jumbotron.

Given the lucrativeness of the rooftop owners’ business, it is unlikely that they would settle a lawsuit on this matter quickly or for a small amount of money.  From all accounts, it is clear that the Cubs want a Jumbotron, and at that, one big enough to be taken seriously in the age of mega Jumbotrons.  Given this, it is possible that said Jumbotron will block some of the rooftop owners’ views into Wrigley Field.  If the Cubs want the advertisement revenue that comes along with the proposed Jumbotron, depending upon the terms of the previous settlement agreement with the rooftop owners, there is a chance that the team will have to shell out serious cash to the rooftop owners.

While the rooftop owners continue to pose a threat to the team’s renovation plans, perhaps another factor presents a bigger obstacle to the Cubs.  That factor would be Wrigley Field’s recognition as a historic landmark by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in 2004.  As a result of its status as a historic landmark, renovations to Wrigley Field must be approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.  Given the historic nature of Wrigley Field, there is a chance that the commission would reject a plan to modernize the field by adding a 6,000-square-foot Jumbotron.  A potential argument exists that addition of the Jumbotron, which would bring Wrigley Field up to par with other, more modern baseball stadiums, would impact its historical nature.  Thus, while the Cubs’ proposal has received support from a number of essential Chicago politicians, perhaps the biggest hurdle the team’s plans face is convincing the commission that addition of the Jumbotron does not thwart the historic nature of Wrigley Field.

Over the coming months, the Cubs face some serious battles in their plan to renovate Wrigley Field.  While chairman Ricketts has asserted that if the team’s renovation wishes are not met, it may be forced to move, such a decision will not come without a full economic analysis of alternative stadium locations.  Although the Cubs have built a legion of loyal fans over the years, the team’s home at Wrigley Field remains an important component to its economic success.  As the team has only three post-season appearances in the last decade, it’s safe to say that many who attend Cubs games do so based upon the lure of visiting the second-oldest ballpark in MLB.  Uprooting the team over the potential inability to construct a Jumbotron then, arguably poses a great risk to continued ballpark attendance.  Thus, it is to be seen, whether that is a risk the Cubs are willing to take.

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Lease Negotiations Mean The Buffalo Bills May Be Moving

By:  John Fabiano, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @Fabs5180)

This Sunday, for the 40th straight year, the Buffalo Bills will host their home opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.  “The Ralph” is the 7th oldest NFL stadium, and is the only one located in the state of New York.

The Bills lease agreement with Erie County is set to expire next July, and the two sides have been negotiating terms of a new deal for a majority of the summer.  It was initially hoped that a new deal would be struck by the start of training camp, but the flexible deadline was extended to the end of this year, as negotiations will continue throughout the season.

The Bills plan to make substantial renovations to the stadium in the near future.  Last year, the team paid an architectural firm about $500,000 to inspect the stadium and estimate the price tag on renovations that would both enhance the fans’ game day experience and bring revenue to the franchise.  The improvements are estimated to cost between $200 million and $220 million.  The source of financing has been at the center of negotiations.

The division of cost will be between the team, county, state, and possibly the NFL.  Both the county and state make money off the Bills playing in Erie County, so they have good reason to put forward money to keep the team in the area.  Annually, the Bills are estimated to generate between $15 million and $20 million in state taxes.

The team can also utilize the NFL’s G-4 loan program, under which the NFL will match a team’s investment for upgrades or a new stadium.   The loans are then paid back over the course of 15 years based on revenues from premium seating. The Packers and Chiefs are two teams that have taken advantage of the G-4 program to make significant stadium improvements to older stadiums.

There is one clause deterring the Bills from taking out a G-4 loan without thinking twice. The “due at sale” clause states that if a team is sold, the owner is required to pay the entire remaining balance upon sale of the team.  This isn’t a problem for most teams, but the Bills have a 93-year-old owner in Ralph Wilson who was hospitalized last week due to his ailing health.  Wilson has repeatedly stated that his plan is to leave the team to his heirs and have them sell the franchise.

If the Bills are to participate in the G-4 program, and the team does go up for sale in the future, any potential buyer will know that they will have a G-4 loan to pay off immediately upon purchase of the team.  This could weaken the value of the franchise, which Forbes recently estimated to be $805 million.

Senator Charles Schumer recently held a press conference at Ralph Wilson Stadium where he presented possible changes to the G-4 program that could help teams that have displayed ownership stability.  He suggested that Commissioner Goodell waive the clause for teams that have had the same owner for over 20 years.  Doing so would allow the Bills to take advantage of the program and would help facilitate negotiations.

Both Erie County and the Bills have stated that they are committed to keeping the Bills in Buffalo.  As a small market team, the Bills are repeatedly brought up as a team that could be moved to Los Angeles.  The county will probably try to add relocation fee to the agreement, which would have to be paid to the county upon relocation of the team.  This would help deter any potential suitors that plan to buy the Bills with the intention of turning them into the L.A. Bills.

There is plenty of time left to hammer out a deal, and everyone in Buffalo is hoping negotiations continue to progress.  All Bills fans want is some stability to a franchise that has been an integral part of the Buffalo community for over 50 years.

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Legal Implications Surrounding the Brooklyn Nets’ Move to the Barclays Center

By:  Richard Braun, RulingSports.com Intern (Twitter:  @RicBraun)

            Whenever a new stadium is approved to be built or remodeled for a team, such as what has recently been approved in Minneapolis for the Vikings and in San Francisco for the Warriors, the controversy typically revolves around how these facilities are financed. The Brooklyn Nets, however, face a different series of legal issues as they prepare to move into their new home, the Barclay’s Center.

            Back in 2003, real estate developer Forest City Ratner proposed the Atlantic Yards project – a multi-billion dollar plan to develop the Vanderbilt Yard and Prospect Heights, a neighborhood just outside downtown Brooklyn. Headed by then-Nets owner Bruce Ratner, the plan would come to include the future home of the Nets, the Barclays Center. About half of the proposed area was already owned by the city, but various private parties owned the remaining half. To acquire control of the remaining half, the state declared the area blighted and seized the property using eminent domain.

            The modern formulation of the limitations of eminent domain can be traced back to the 2005 Supreme Court Case Kelo v. City of New London. The 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution states that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation. The Kelo ruling loosened the “public use” requirement, meaning that the land must be used by the public, for simply a “public purpose.” In writing the majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Stevens allowed “public purpose” to include economic development and the removal of blight, but the Court mostly wanted state legislatures to determine on their own the full extent of their eminent domain power. In dissent, Justice O’Connor, while stating different public uses that the Court has allowed in the past, said that “the sovereign may transfer private property to private parties, often common carriers, who make the property available for the public’s use—such as with a railroad, a public utility, or a stadium.” (emphasis added) What O’Connor is saying any building that is open for the public counts as a public purpose, and that includes stadiums. This passage in the Kelo dissent specifically outlined the authority New York had to seize private land for Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project and the Barclays Center.

            In order to comply with the law as stated by Kelo, the private land still needed to be classified as blighted, and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in 2006 came to the conclusion that the area was indeed blighted. In their study, the ESDC claimed that it was highly unlikely that blighted conditions on the project site would be removed without public action[1]. This assertion has been met with a great deal[2] of[3] skepticism[4], and eventually the land owners took Ratner and the State of New York to court over what they considered an unconstitutional taking, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The New York Court of Appeals, however, followed the holdings from Kelo and other cases in upholding the State’s ability to seize private land for the Atlantic Yards project, even if not all of the property being seized was blighted. The property owners also sought to stop the taking by claiming that the actual motivation behind the approval of Atlantic Yards was for the private gain of Forest City Ratner, not any public purpose. The Court disagreed, holding that eminent domain was just a means to an end, the end being the public purpose.

            In the wake of the Kelo decision, 43 states[5] imposed new limitations on their eminent domain laws. New York was not one of them, and as a result it was next to impossible for the residents in the proposed Atlantic Yards area to mount a successful challenge to the State’s eminent domain power. The Court ruled that any property that was underdeveloped was subject to eminent domain.  However, this is a ruling that can apply to just about any piece of property. Further, the New York Court of Appeals was very deferential to the ESDC in their decision, even though the ESDC is an agency appointed by the State that is comprised entirely of unelected officials. As a result, Ratner secured the legal victories he needed in order to begin building the Barclays Center, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2012-13 NBA season.

            The use of eminent domain does not receive the same amount of press as public stadium financing, but it is a popular tool for securing land for new stadiums. Its use is more liberal in New York than in other states, but just about every state can seize private property for a new stadium if the property meets that state’s definition of blight. And unlike public financing, which is typically voted on either by a legislature or public referendum, the public has little recourse in the event of a taking.


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Oakland A’s Battle the San Francisco Giants for Territory

By:  Andrew Riley, RulingSports.com Intern

The relocation of the Oakland A’s has been an issue since 2006, after Lew Wolff–co-owner of the Oakland A’s–announced the team would be moving to Fremont, California. The move to Fremont fell through and San Jose became the target for relocation by team management. The problem though, is that San Jose falls under the territorial rights of the San Francisco Giants, so the two ball clubs have been at odds ever since Wolff’s intentions were announced. The issue has since grown in intensity over the years to the point where, on March 7th, 2012, the two clubs engaged in a war of press releases with the Oakland A’s firing the first shot. Each team’s press release basically outlined its intentions or strategy to obtain or keep the territory of San Jose. The rules of engagement are governed by the MLB Constitution, which will be analyzed in this article to determine potential outcomes.

The A’s challenge the fact that the Giants have territorial rights to San Jose.  Historically, the Giants were granted the territory of Santa Clara County, in which San Jose is located.  The A’s have asserted that Santa Clara was only granted to the Giants as a territory as a gesture of good-will to aid in the Giants’ relocation. However, since the Giants did not move, the Oakland A’s claim they should not hold exclusive rights to Santa Clara County. Furthermore, the A’s emphasize that the Bay Area is the only two-market region that does not share territorial rights. The A’s press release concludes, strangely, that they are not “seeking a move that seeks to alter or in any manner disturb the MLB territorial rights.” That statement seems to contradict the first half of the press release, as well as the general concept of moving directly into the territorial rights of another team. The only conceptual way for the A’s to move to San Jose without altering the territorial rights of the Giants, would be for the A’s to provide a fee to the Giants.  This is a concept that is neither explicitly allowed nor disallowed by the MLB constitution.  However, even if the A’s paid the Giants a fee, this action would likely still be considered a “manner [that can] disturb the MLB territorial rights.”

The San Francisco Giants sent issued a rebuttal the same day to challenge the assertions made by the A’s. Essentially, the Giants are placing their position on top of the strength of the MLB Constitution.  In the rebuttal they stated that regardless of how the Giants initially received the County of Santa Clara as their territorial right, the MLB reviewed the separation of the territory on four separate occasions, after the Giants received Santa Clara County.  These reviews included a complete review in 1994. Therefore, the Giants claim that since the reviews determined that the territorial rights did not need to be altered, then the current setup must be in the best interest of MLB, which would supersede the grant of Santa Clara County on the premise of relocation. To elaborate, by 1994 the MLB would have had the knowledge that the Giants are likely no longer considering relocation. If so, the results of the review were based on analysis void of any condition concerning a possible move by San Francisco. If the MLB concluded that the current setup was in the best interest of baseball, and the decision was made absent a condition of the Giants relocation. Then, how the Giants obtained Santa Clara is irrelevant. To further strengthen their argument, the Giants highlight the fact that the same territorial rights were added to the MLB Constitution and have survived three affirmations without alteration or challenge. The Giants concluded by stating that their growth during the last twenty years relied heavily on the development of Santa Clara County.

The MLB constitution outlines the roles and responsibilities of MLB baseball clubs, the commissioner, the executive council, and the general rules of operation of the league. However this situation plays out, this document will determine the winner. The key words throughout the constitution and the concept that will determine which side will be the victor is “what is in the best interest of baseball.” On paper, San Francisco’s position is practically unbreakable, in that the current territorial rights are written in the constitution. Article VII describes the “Superseding Effect” stating explicitly that this document supersedes any other agreement and any action taken by a club in respect to another agreement. Having the territorial rights written right into the MLB constitution appears to prevent any action the Oakland A’s can take, since the constitution trumps any other action or agreement.

Ironically however, the weakness of placing the Giants position on the strength of the MLB constitution can be highlighted directly within the press release issued by the Giants. The Giants point out that the territorial rights were re-affirmed on three separate occasions from 2000 to 2008. Why were they re-affirmed? What would have happened if the territorial rights as written in the constitution were not in the best interest of baseball? One could argue that a document that can change three times in eight years is not a strong document at all. The strength portrayed in it is nothing but an illusion. The strength actually lies in what is perceived as best for baseball.

Article V, Section 2(b)(7) of the MLB constitution states that a vote of three-fourths of the Major League clubs is required to amend any provision of the constitution unless specified elsewhere in the document. The amending of territorial rights falls under this standard. This appears to be a very high standard that usually will not be overturned unless something is not in the best interest of baseball. Jim Crane and the Houston Astros may feel that the three-fourths standard is too low, since realignment from the National League to the American League is also explicit in the constitution and subject to the same standard. Yet, the factor that differs in the Oakland A’s situation, is that it does not appear that they have convinced others, including Commissioner Selig, that their move constitutes being in the best interest of baseball. 

Commissioner Selig has been driving force behind interleague play, which has been characterized positively and substantiated as being in the best interest of baseball by attendance records and feedback from the fans. The realignment of the Astros was to allow for year-round interleague action, since the leagues would be balanced. If public support is any indication of what might determine what is in MLB’s best interest I think the Oakland A’s have some work to do. Additionally, Commissioner Selig has not been a driving force behind voicing support of the A’s move out of Oakland.

Since the A’s press release did not provide much guidance into how they intend to proceed victoriously, history shows that they are at least willing to wait for the tide to turn in their favor. The problem for them, of course, is that it does not appear to be turning their way, despite waiting approximately six years for it to do so. The question is then, how much longer are they willing to wait? As it stands right now the San Francisco Giants appear to be in the driver’s seat with the MLB Constitution riding shotgun.

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Where Will the Minnesota Vikings’ New Stadium Be Built?

One thing is certain:  the Minnesota Vikings’ lease for the Metrodome expired on February 1.  And even this certainty is not fully certain, as stadium officials argued that a roof collapse kick-started a lease term which subsequently requires the Vikings to play in the Metrodome through the 2012 season.

That being said, however, the expiration of that lease is the cause for many uncertainties.  The largest question is namely, where the Vikings will play after finishing out the 2012 season at the Metrodome.  For years, the Vikings have argued that because of the need for upgrades to the Metrodome, the team has lost a significant amount of money as a result of playing there.  Given these arguments and the state of Minnesota’s desire to keep its most profitable sporting franchise within the confines of its border, a serious stadium proposal debate has been brewing.

At this point in the debate, it appears that two locations are being eyed for the site of the Vikings’ new stadium:  the Metrodome and what was formerly an Army ammunition center in the Arden Hills suburb of Minneapolis.  Each site presents its own benefits and complications.  However, analysis of each seems to indicate where the Vikings will be playing future games.

Arden Hills

Have no doubt about it:  Arden Hills is the Minnesota Vikings organization’s preferred stadium site.

For starters, the Vikings prefer the Arden Hills site because the land is presently available to build on.  With previous stadium plans for the Metrodome, the Vikings would be forced to play a significant number of games at the University of Minnesota’s football stadium, TCF Bank Stadium, while the new stadium is being completed.  This would cost the Vikings a significant amount of money.  As such, the Vikings in-part favor the Arden Hills location because they could continue playing in the Metrodome while the stadium is being built, and additionally, because they could begin building on the Arden Hills site immediately.

Additionally, the Vikings have their eyes on the Arden Hills site because of the site’s size.  The Arden Hills site spans 170 acres.  This would clearly give the Vikings options to build more than just a stadium on the site.  Likely, they would build fan attractions, including restaurants and merchandise vendor areas, which would bring in additional visitors to the location and more revenue.

While there are clearly some significant benefits in choosing the Arden Hills location, the major downfall of this site’s proposal is funding for the site.  Funding for the new stadium is expected to come from three sources:  the Vikings, the state of Minnesota and the locality of wherever the stadium is ultimately built.

To date, Arden Hills has not been able to propose a source of funding which is acceptable to the Minnesota legislature.  This is because Arden Hills wishes to increase the city’s sales tax to fund its portion of the stadium.  To increase sales tax, one of two things must happen:  a referendum must be passed or the state legislature must approve the increase.  Getting a referendum on the ballot and subsequently passing it (which, many do not believe that Arden Hills could do), would take a significant amount of time.  This process would further delay the building of the Vikings’ new stadium.  Additionally, the state legislature has continuously indicated that it will not vote to pass a sales tax increase in this legislative session.

Thus, while the Vikings’ preferred site location may be the Arden Hills site, it is apparent that the location is not the favorite of the Minnesota government.

Metrodome

The Minnesota government clearly has its eyes on another site location:  the Metrodome.  In early conversations regarding building a new stadium, a proposal was made to essentially build a new stadium where the Metrodome is presently located.  As noted above, the Vikings strongly opposed this proposal, because it would require them to pay a significant amount of money to play at TCF Bank Stadium while the stadium was being built.

Recently, however, a new proposal has been made which involves building to begin in a parking lot portion of the Metrodome.  This would allow the Vikings to only have to play at handful of games at TCF Bank Stadium, thus reducing their costs on that front.  While the Vikings have not voiced as much support for the Metrodome parking lot plan as they have for the Arden Hills site, they also have not voiced serious opposition to it.

The benefit that the Metrodome site has over the Arden Hills location, is that there appears to be more reliable sources of funding for the project.  Again, significant portions of funding for the stadium at the Metrodome site will come from the Vikings and the state of Minnesota.  Unlike Arden Hills, however, Minneapolis has not suggested a sales tax increase to fund its portion of the stadium.  Rather, it would like to use gambling revenue from a pull-tab game to fund its portion of the stadium.  There has been some debate as to how much revenue this source could bring in, but for the time being, it appears that the Minnesota legislature views this as a more reasonable funding option than anything proposed by Arden Hills.

Where will the Vikings’ new stadium be built?

There are several factors which will ultimately determine where the Vikings’ new stadium will be built.  The two most important are time and money.

With respect to time, if the Vikings are willing to extend their lease with the current Metrodome for several more seasons, they increase the likelihood that they can secure Arden Hills as their new stadium site.  This is because the Vikings could lobby to have a referendum put on the ballot to increase sales tax in Arden Hills.  As noted above, getting a referendum on the ballot and passing it takes time.  So unless Arden Hills can find a source of funding other than a sales tax increase, the Vikings are going to have to wait to secure this option.  If they can do so, and if they can convince voters that building a new stadium at the Arden Hills site is necessary to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, then the Vikings will likely be playing in Arden Hills in upcoming seasons.

However, the more likely scenario is that a new stadium will be built in the parking lot location at the current Metrodome.  It is unlikely that the Vikings want to wait longer than necessary to move out of the current Metrodome.  For years, the Vikings have said that they are losing money by playing in the current Metrodome.  If a reasonable proposal for a new stadium is put into place, the Vikings would be crazy not to jump at the chance to accept it.

With funding apparently secured for the Metrodome location, the small number of games the Vikings would have to play at TCF Bank Stadium and the Vikings’ apparent acceptance of the proposed Metrodome parking lot location, it appears that this will be the site of the new Vikings stadium.

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Are the Rams Leaving St. Louis?

For weeks, rumors have been lingering that the St. Louis Rams may be leaving Missouri.  While these rumors are the result of several theories, how much truth is there to them?

To understand whether the Rams may be headed out of St. Louis in the near future, one must first understand the two factors present for even raising the issue.

The first, and most critical factor, deals with the Rams’ current playing home, the Edward Jones Dome.  Currently, the Rams are parties to a lease for the Edward Jones Dome with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.  The Rams entered into the 30-year lease with the CVC in 1995, when they moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis.  On the Rams’ part, the lease requires the team to pay the CVC $500,000.00 each year and also, reportedly, to play all of its games at the stadium.  As for the CVC, the lease requires it to maintain the stadium as a “top tier” stadium.

Since the lease is not a public document, it is unclear how “top tier” is defined within the lease.  Large-scale media outlets have reported that in order for the Edward Jones Dome to be a “top tier” stadium, it has to be considered one of the top-eight stadiums in the NFL, as judged by various factors.  However, better guidance as to what “top tier” means was arguably provided by St. Louis mayor, Francis Slay.  On his blog, Slay noted that “top tier, “is not about how the entire Edward Jones Dome compares to the many football stadiums constructed after the Dome.  Rather, it is about how a dozen or so elements or features in the Dome as defined in the lease compare to those same features in the rest of the league.”  Thus, it appears that in order to comply with the terms of the lease, the CVC will have to work to ensure that the Edward Jones Dome is on par with other teams’ stadiums with respect to certain elements, say for example, jumbotron display screens and concourses.

Whether the Edward Jones Dome is a “top tier” stadium plays a critical role as to whether the Rams remain in St. Louis.  As noted above, the Rams originally entered into the 30-year stadium contract with the CVC in 1995, meaning that it wouldn’t be set to expire until 2025.  However, the lease also contains a clause which allows the Rams to exit the lease every ten years if the Edward Jones Dome is not a “top tier” stadium at that point in time.  This is relevant, because the argument has been made that the Edward Jones Dome is not a “top tier” stadium, thus providing the Rams with a possible out of their lease agreement and subsequent ability to relocate elsewhere.

On February 1, 2012, the CVC set forth plans for $124 million worth of improvements to the Edward Jones Dome in an effort to ensure that it is a “top tier” stadium and hence, hold the Rams to their lease and keep the team in St. Louis.  Notably, the plan would require the Rams to pay for 52 percent of the improvements.  The remaining portion of the improvements would be funded by taxpayers.  However, before taxpayers could pay for the remaining 48 percent of the improvements, a voting measure would have to be placed on the ballot and approved by voters.  Given this, work on any improvements to the Edward Jones Dome could be delayed.

Additionally, the Rams do not have to accept the offer set forth by the CVC.  The team has until March 1 to tell the CVC whether it accepts or rejects the offer.  If the team does not accept the offer outright, it may propose a counteroffer.  If a plan is not agreed to by June 15, arbitration begins.  Finally, if by the end of 2014, the Rams can assert that the Edward Jones Dome is not a “top tier” stadium, then they can break the lease and likely begin the process of relocating out of St. Louis.

If the Rams and the CVC are unable to reach an agreement as to what sort of improvements the Edward Jones Dome must undergo, or if taxpayers do not agree to fund their portion of the improvements, it is very likely that the Rams will be leaving St. Louis.  However, this move would not occur until the end of 2014, and as such, it is likely that a resolution of the stadium issue could be reach by then.

The other theory circulating as to why the Rams may be leaving St. Louis centers upon their owner’s bid to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, has made a name for himself as a sports owner.  Not only does he own the Rams, but he also owns the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets and English soccer team Arsenal.

However, because of the NFL’s cross-ownership rule, Kroenke had to surrender control to the Avalanche and the Nuggets to his son, Josh.  Eventually, he will have to transfer ownership of the teams, as well.  This is because the NFL’s cross ownership rule does not permit owners of NFL teams to own other teams which play in cities in which another NFL team is present.  Thus, because the Broncos play in Denver, Kroenke could not own an NFL team in St. Louis and other sports teams in Denver.

Reports have indicated that Kroenke is pursuing a bid to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Additional reports have indicated that if he is successful in purchasing the Dodgers, that he may be forced to move the Rams to Los Angeles due to the NFL’s cross-ownership rule.  Such analysis of the NFL’s cross-ownership rule is incorrect, because it only applies when there is an NFL team already present in the city.  Los Angeles is not home to an NFL team, and hasn’t been since the Rams left there in 1995.  Thus, if Kroenke purchases the Dodgers, he will not be forced to move the Rams to Los Angeles, although it may provide him with the  incentive to do so.

Therefore, Rams fans should care most about whether the city can fund improvements to Edward Jones Dome, rather than whether Kroenke ends up purchasing the Dodgers.

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