Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rams' Stay in St. Louis Is Tied to Dome's `Ranking'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rams' Stay in St. Louis Is Tied to Dome's `Ranking'

Article excerpt

The St. Louis Rams can break their 30-year stadium lease on its 10- or 20-year anniversaries if the Trans World Dome is no longer ranked among the top 25 percent in the country.

The lawyer for the regional Convention and Visitors Commission, which oversees the stadium, concedes that the clause may be unusual for a football stadium - but says it is similar to provisions in leases at many of the area's first-class office buildings.

"It's in my lease," said commission lawyer Greg Smith, a partner in the Husch & Eppenberger law firm at 100 North Broadway.

The Rams' clause lets the club depart the dome if they first give a year's notice. They could give notice as early as 2005.

Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College in Illinois and an expert in stadium leases, says he has never heard of such a clause in a stadium lease.

"I would like to know how you judge the top 25 percent of the nation's stadiums," Baade said Thursday.

The Riverfront Times this week called attention to the escape clause, contained on page 29 of the 4-inch thick lease and related documents that the Rams signed March 1.

Rams' officials are in Phoenix for the Super Bowl and couldn't be reached Thursday.

Smith said the clause "wasn't any big secret" and was added at the Rams' insistence. The matter first came up during a weekend marathon negotiation in late December 1994 or early January 1995, he said.

Area officials weren't disturbed by the request, Smith said, because they were asking for a 30-year commitment from the Rams - unusually long for sports leases.

All parties also agreed that the stadium, financed with public money, would have to be maintained as a first-class facility. That's why the commission set up a special account, called the Preservation Fund, and agreed to put $4 million a year into it, Smith said.

If the Rams and the commission disagree on whether the dome meets the 25 percent rule, the lease calls for an arbitrator to make the final determination. And there's always the courts, Smith said.

"It's accurate that we did not start from any form of a standard lease," he added. …

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