Minnesota Vikings fans can finally exhale after their team secured funding for a new stadium.
Next up in the stadium game: the St. Louis Rams.
Pull up a chair. This could take a while.
The Vikings needed years to get the job done. Rams owner Stan Kroenke isn't one to rush. He waited til the last minute before exercising his option to purchase a majority stake in the team. He has resisted showing any cards in the Rams' push for an improved stadium situation. And there is a process to follow, anyway.
The Rams' lease requires the St. Louis stadium authority to provide a first-tier facility by 2015. The Edward Jones Dome is not close to first tier by NFL standards. It's debatable whether a re-design could meet the Rams' likely demands without the project becoming cost-prohibitive.
In the meantime, the Rams have rejected the stadium authority's offer as a matter of course. The stadium authority is expected to reject the Rams' counter proposal. Once that happens, an arbitrator will begin deciding what constitutes a reasonable upgrade. That process, scheduled to begin June 15 and conclude before 2013, would produce a compromise proposal for the city to accept or reject.
If the city accepts, the Rams would be bound to the proposal, keeping in place their lease through 2025. If the city rejects the arbitrator's proposal, the Rams would be free to consider their options in St. Louis or elsewhere beginning in March 2015.
The price tag for new stadiums is around $1 billion. Spending $900 million on upgrades would make no sense. What about $800 million or $700 million or $600 million? Where is the cutoff and where would the money come from? These are not minor details.
The Kansas City Chiefs upgraded Arrowhead Stadium for $375 million, with the Hunt family's ownership covering $125 million of that total. Upgrading the Edward Jones Dome to the Rams' liking could cost more. There's a roof to consider, and also the time factor. The Chiefs' upgrades took place five years ago.
Also, the Hunts' connection to Kansas City was strong and emotional. The Chiefs weren't going anywhere, realistically, but the Rams' roots in Missouri aren't as deep. And if St. Louis rejects what an arbitrator considers reasonable, the Rams will be one step closer to the door.
We'll have a marginally better idea where the St. Louis situation stands once officials release upgrade proposals Monday in compliance with public-records laws. Those proposals probably will not include detailed cost projections. We'll be left to project.
Stadium games usually reduce to how far a citizenry will go to keep its team from bolting. It's tough to envision Rams fans stepping up the way Vikings fans did in Minnesota, not after the Rams posted a 15-65 record over the past five seasons. Have the Rams built up enough equity to win hundreds of millions in public funding?
Kroenke is more likely to wait than to beg. This could take a while.