Dome lease lets Rams keep renovation plan private, commission says

Monday, April 30, 2012 | 7:57 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission said it won't make the St. Louis Rams' renovation plan for the Edward Jones Dome public without the team's permission.

After rejecting a $124 million renovation plan, the Rams have until Tuesday to present the commission with an alternative plan to upgrade the Dome. If a deal isn't struck by June 15, the two sides would go into arbitration, which could run through year's end. Without an agreement, the Rams' lease would become year-to-year after the 2014 football season, giving the team freedom to move.

The Dome, which opened in 1995, was largely financed with $256 million in bonds, and the repayment of that 30-year debt will be $720 million. Every year, Missouri spends $12 million to pay off the debt, and St. Louis and St. Louis County each pay $6 million.

The commission, a public agency that operates the Dome, has said it will release records only if the Rams say it's OK. Kathleen "Kitty" Ratcliffe, the commission's president, has said the agency is legally bound by a confidentiality clause in the Dome's lease.

Mike Jones, a senior policy adviser to St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley, backed that stance.

"You live with the contract you've got and those are the terms, so we've got to live with them," Jones said. "Ultimately, at the end of the day, everything will see the light of day."

Kevin Demoff, the team's executive vice president for football operations, declined last week to say whether the team would give permission for its plan to be released, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. He did not immediately return a phone message Monday seeking comment.

The provision in the Dome lease says the commission and the Rams can keep some information confidential, except under certain circumstances — such as when laws or NFL policies require information to be released, or if all parties give permission to making information public.

But that may conflict with the Missouri Sunshine Law, which requires governments and public agencies to keep most records and meetings open to public view.

Kenneth Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition in Columbia, said he doesn't believe the commission can argue that any of the exemptions to the sunshine law apply.

"We're talking about a project involving a public facility and a lot of public money that much of the public are going to view with a lot of skepticism," Bunting said.

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