ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced deals with a power company and railroad Tuesday that he said represent "concrete progress" in plans to build a riverfront stadium that could help St. Louis remain an NFL city.
Nixon held an outdoor news conference in near-freezing temperatures along with leaders of Ameren Missouri and Terminal Railroad Association at the proposed site for the 64,000-seat, open-air stadium that would replace the Edward Jones Dome, now 20 years old. Ameren would relocate transmission towers and the railroad would move tracks out of the stadium footprint, which Nixon said was mostly vacant lots and empty buildings in a blighted area just north of the dome.
Nixon said the cost of the move for Ameren would be just under $20 million and for the railroad $3 million.
"This is a historic opportunity to bring hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment to this area, build an iconic stadium and transform these deserted streets into a thriving destination," Nixon said.
The Rams informed officials earlier this month that they were going to a year-to-year lease, clearing the way for a potential move. Billionaire team owner Stan Kroenke is part of a joint venture that announced plans earlier this month for an 80,000-seat stadium in the Los Angeles suburbs.
Any move would be subject to approval by the NFL and its owners. The NFL has said no moves would be made in time for next season, but Commissioner Roger Goodell has established an internal committee to review stadium options in Los Angeles and coordinate any possible move to Southern California, according to a league memo obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
The memo emphasizes that the league, not a single team, controls when and where a move can take place. Any decision to bring an NFL team to Southern California would require multiple steps and approvals from NFL owners. The memo does not refer to the Rams, the San Diego Chargers or the Oakland Raiders, which have been considering a move.
Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest market, has been without an NFL team since 1995 when the Raiders moved back to Oakland and the Rams moved from Anaheim to St. Louis.
Under terms of a 30-year agreement reached in 1995, the Rams had the ability to convert its dome lease to annual terms if the facility was not deemed among the top 25 percent of NFL stadiums based on various criteria. The city's Convention and Visitors Commission, which operates the dome, proposed a new glass addition, outdoor terraces and a new scoreboard, improvements of less than $200 million, with the Rams picking up half of the cost. The Rams countered with a more elaborate and expensive plan featuring a sliding roof that city officials said would cost at least $700 million.
St. Louis officials are working directly with the NFL in efforts to keep football in the nation's 20th-largest market. Kroenke, who bought the team in 2010, has repeatedly declined comment.
"I've not personally spoken with Stan, although there's been a great deal of contact between all parties on this," Nixon said.
If the team moves, Nixon said it would cost the state about $10 million in annual income tax revenue paid by NFL players. Officials appointed by Nixon to pursue a stadium deal did not attend the news conference because they were meeting with the league.
Nixon said he hopes to have a financing plan in place by this fall.
"I'm not going to handicap this other than to say that if we do nothing, then we're not an NFL city," Nixon said. "If we do nothing, people will stand here 10 years from now and it will look exactly like it looks like right (now). This is our chance."
The city is hopeful a new stadium also would attract an MLS expansion franchise.
"It's in a demographic that is growing dramatically," Nixon said. "I'm convinced the MLS is going to continue to grow."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL