ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – In a victory for the St. Louis Rams and its owner Stan Kroenke, arbitrators have sided with the team over the Convention and Visitors Commission in a dispute over upgrades for the Edward Jones Dome.

“The Panel finds and concludes that the Rams 2012 Plans will produce a First Tier stadium and that the CVC 2012 Plans will not,” the ruling stated. You can read the full ruling here.

The Rams’ plan is expected to cost at least $700 million and would require major structural changes to the dome. The CVC presented a much more modest proposal, costing $120 million.

“The St. Louis Rams are pleased with the Arbitrators’ First-Tier award,” Rams Executive Vice President of Football Operations Kevin Demoff said in a press release. “The independent decision acknowledges that significant improvements are required to put the Edward Jones Dome on equal standing with most National Football League stadiums and to enhance the fan experience. The Rams are hopeful that the Convention and Visitors’ Commission will implement the arbitrators’ decision and work toward achieving First-Tier status by the March 1, 2015 measuring date as set forth in the parties’ lease.”

Friday’s ruling leaves the CVC with 30 days to decide whether to accept or reject the arbitrators’ decision. If the CVC accepts the changes, it will go ahead with a plan to fund the new project. If it rejects the ruling, it would allow the team to break their lease beginning in March of 2015.

“Today, the three arbitrators who were charged with decision the “First Tier” dispute between the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission and the St. Louis Rams made their decision and ruled in favor of the St. Louis Rams,” Greg Smith, an attorney for the St. Louis CVC said in a release. “The arbitrators determined that due to several structural deficiencies in the size and dimensions of the Edward Jones Dome, that only the Rams May 2012 plan for demolishing and rebuilding the facility will make it First Tier under the terms of the existing lease between the parties.”

According to Smith, the CVC will likely reject the ruling, allowing the team to break their lease and possibly leave St. Louis.

“The CVC believes that a decision by CVC and the sponsors under the lease to commence construction of the Rams May 2012 improvements, which we estimate to cost in excess of $750 million, is very unlikely. The more likely outcomes of this proceeding will be that, effective March 15, 2015, the Rams lease will be converted to a year-by-year lease. The Rams decision with regard to its plans beyond that date is, of course, up to them.”

Smith said in an interview with KMOX that he is hopeful there will be a dialogue between the Rams and CVC before it reaches that point. Jeff Rainford, chief of the staff for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, echoed those sentiments, saying it is now time for the Rams to outline their vision.

“The CVC, for quite some time now, has attempted to start those discussions with the Rams and the Rams have declined to do so,” he said. “At some point the Rams are going to have to end the silence and start indicating what they’re interested in doing and we need to get to that point because at the end of the day, I think the vast majority of people in the St. Louis metropolitan area want to keep the Rams in St. Louis. The question is, at what cost?”

“Both the mayor and the county executive said if any tax or fee increases are required for a new Rams facility, they’re going to go to a vote of the people so you start to discuss this with the Rams and see where it leads and see what the people of St. Louis are willing to do, if anything, to keep them here,” Rainford added.

Friday’s ruling was critical of the 18-year-old dome, listing a number of reasons why a massive overhaul is necessary.

“First, the Facilities as a whole are lacking, principally because of the footprint on which the Dome is built. It is the smallest in the NFL. Both Parties exceed the footprint in their plans, the Rams do so significantly while the CVC does so only in a limited fashion into the airspace beyond the fooprint,” the ruling reads.

“Second, the tread depths for club seats, as well as their location are not First Tier at the Dome. The CVC 2012 Plans do not address this deficiency. Spacious legroom is required for premium suites,” is another complaint listed.

“Third, the Dome – as it exists today and as CVC believes that it should exist in the future – lacks openness, light and air,” the report states. The arbitrators go on to mention that, in the twenty years since the Dome was opened in 1995, 17 of the 22 domes built have been open air stadiums. “This is convincing proof of the state of the art and the meaning of First Tier for the physical structure of stadia in the NFL world. In order to be First Tier, the Dome must be open or, if closed, must have an operable roof and abundant natural light inside the stadium.”

During his “state of the NFL” news conference Friday at the Super Bowl site in New Orleans, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about negotiations over the Edward Jones Dome lease.

“We want to make sure the team gets the stadium issues resolved because they do need to have the kind of stadium that will help support them for the long-term in St. Louis,” he said.

Goodell said he remains optimistic a deal can be reached to keep football in St. Louis. “I believe the business community and officials want that outcome; I believe Stan Kroenke wants that outcome, and they’re all working together to try to get there.” The commissioner’s statements were made prior to Friday afternoon’s arbitration ruling.

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