WHAT OTHERS SAY: Pro football's future clouds up in St. Louis

Thursday, June 7, 2012 | 4:31 p.m. CDT

Pity the poor St. Louis sports fan in 2012.

Albert Pujols, one of baseball’s best players, left the Cardinals in the offseason, and now the 2011 World Champions are scuffling along. Proud Cardinals boosters sure aren’t happy to see a won-loss record that’s barely better than that of the often-hapless Royals.

The Rams, one of the National Football League’s worst teams, just stuck their hands out for a reported $700 million worth of improvements at the Edward Jones Dome. But the city properly rejected that outlandish request, which was almost six times higher than the $124 million in renovations the city had proposed.

So could the Rams be on the move back to Los Angeles, as has long been rumored in NFL circles and feared in St. Louis?

Not yet because arbitration over the Rams stadium lease could start later this month. The team is seeking a list of upgrades that include expanded concourses, new party zones and new scoreboards. Taxpayer funds would cover much of those costs.

Wait, that scenario sounds familiar.

Kansas City sports fans heard a lot about bigger concourses, more restrooms, new concession stands and other fan amenities in 2006. That’s when Jackson County voters approved a three-eighths-cent sales tax increase to pay for upgrades to Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums to keep the Chiefs and Royals for the next 25 years.

The improvements, completed two years ago, created stunning and modern stadiums at a Truman Sports Complex that was already more than 35 years old.

The Chiefs received $250 million in public funds, and the Royals got $175 million. The teams added more than $100 million of their own money. The state tossed in some revenues. The upgrades ended up costing close to $600 million.

That’s less than the Rams recently sought to repair a 17-year-old dome.

The Rams and city still can negotiate a new deal to renovate the stadium, which could keep the club in St. Louis through at least 2025. But if the city balks during arbitration, the Rams could start looking for greener pastures in less than three years.

Don’t get us wrong: Kansas Citians should hope that St. Louis and the Rams can work out a deal to keep professional football in Missouri’s second largest city. As St. Louis boosters point out, the Edward Jones Dome is a downtown attraction, easily reached by the kind of mass transit that — not so secretly — we can only envy in Kansas City.

Then again, if St. Louis can’t hold on to the Rams, the location of an often-empty stadium wouldn’t matter much, would it?

Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.


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