ST. LOUIS (AP) The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission said Tuesday it has paid $2 million to the St. Louis
Rams to cover the team's legal fees for the dispute over upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome that resulted in arbitration.
CVC spokeswoman Donna Andrews said payment was made May 20. Rams spokesman Artis Twyman confirmed the team was paid.
The CVC operates the dome that the Rams have played in since 1995, the year they moved to St. Louis from Anaheim, Calif. The dome was built with taxpayer funds to lure an NFL team.
The 30-year lease agreement allows the Rams to leave after the 2014 season if the dome is not deemed to be among the top quarter of the NFL's 31 stadiums. The two sides were far apart on how to get to that top-tier level, prompting arbitration.
In February, the panel of arbitrators sided with the Rams' far more expensive upgrade plan and ordered the CVC to pay the Rams' legal fees.
The CVC had proposed $124 million in renovations that included better amenities and a huge new scoreboard. The Rams didn't put a price tag on their plan, but CVC and city officials believe it would cost $700 million to $800 million. The team's plan included installation of a new roof with a sliding panel, replacing much of the brick exterior with a glass front and re-routing a nearby street.
Unless the CVC implements the plan, the Rams' lease becomes year-to-year starting in March 2015. That creates the possibility that the Rams could leave St. Louis. City leaders have said it is unlikely the Rams' plan would be implemented.
Rams management has said the team wants to stay, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this year he was hopeful the stadium situation would be resolved. Some in St. Louis believe the answer is a new stadium, but it wasn't clear if the Rams were looking into that possibility. Twyman declined comment beyond confirming the $2 million payment.
The dome cost more than $300 million when it was built, but repayment for the 30-year bonds will total $720 million in taxpayer money. The state of Missouri pays $12 million annually toward that debt; the city and St. Louis County pay $6 million each.
St. Louis Business Journal reported that with the payment to the Rams the CVC now projects a $2.5 million operating loss for fiscal 2013. Andrews declined to give specifics of the budget but said the revision "reduced the fund balance" by $2 million to account for the payment to the Rams.
The CVC is funded by a 3.75 percent tax on hotel rooms in St. Louis city and county. It also receives dues from about 700 businesses in the region's hospitality industry.