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Missouri governor takes first step in stadium process for Rams

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For those hoping that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's Wednesday morning conference call would provide clear, immediate answers on the future of the Rams in St. Louis, the outcome was probably a disappointment.

What Nixon offered, however, was something more along the lines of a first step toward finding a resolution to keep the Rams and the NFL in St. Louis. There were no artist renderings of billion dollar stadiums or addresses given for possible locations. Instead, Nixon announced that he has appointed Dave Peacock, the former president of Anheuser-Busch, and local attorney Bob Blitz to take the reins of a complicated task.

The job of Peacock and Blitz is to spend the next 60 days (plus time already spent) figuring out how best to deliver Nixon real, logical options for a new, NFL-worthy venue in the St. Louis region. What Nixon hopes to see by Jan. 28 -- the deadline for the Rams to convert their expiring lease on the Edward Jones Dome into a year-to-year proposition -- is a realistic option that will meld public funding, private investments (read: owner Stan Kroenke) and the NFL's stadium loan initiative into something that all parties can swallow.

"We want to move beyond theoretical into more specifics," Nixon said. "In order to do that, I determined that the best way to do that was to task out the two most qualified folks in the St. Louis region to get into those details, to see what the concrete options were. For me, other than the framework I talked about on the financing side, the need to have private investment, need to have a good economic generator out of there, my mind is open to whatever the best options are moving forward. I’m not blocking anything out."

During the nearly 25-minute conference call, Nixon offered few details, choosing to focus instead on the announcement that Peacock and Blitz were taking on these leadership roles and what he hopes they are able to find in their efforts. He offered resounding confidence in the ability of the two civic leaders to find the right solution and he repeatedly listed their credentials, including Peacock's long history working with the NFL on advertising and marketing campaigns in his former job.

Nixon also pointed to a trio of things that will be imperative to getting a deal done. The first is the Edward Jones Dome itself. While Nixon repeatedly mentioned that the debt for the Dome is "almost" paid, it's actually a little further off than he insinuated. It's about two-thirds of the way to being paid, but theoretically, by the time a new stadium would be finished, it could be much closer. The idea then being that those already established forms of payment for the Edward Jones Dome could then be rolled into a new facility without much of a difference.

It's also worth noting that Nixon made multiple reference to the need to "protect the taxpayers." In other words, another sweetheart deal in which there's no private financing from the owner is extremely unlikely. In addition to that, Nixon wants to have what he called "provable return" for the region other than just NFL game days.

Those are all factors that Peacock and Blitz will have to consider when they present their options to Nixon. And, in turn, those are things Nixon will have to consider when he's figuring out what will best meet the Rams' needs while also best serving the public.

"These two will bring a tight pencil to it," Nixon said. "I wouldn’t want to comment on potential options because this can get complicated. Let’s not kid ourselves. Especially if you are moving real estate around and using other economic development tools that already exist."

During the next 60 days, there figures to be plenty more to chew on as this situation develops. While there were no concrete stadium plans presented Wednesday, that day is approaching soon enough. The Rams have yet to see any concrete plans, but it's clear that once Nixon gets one, the Rams will follow soon after.

After a plan does materialize, the hardest work of all will begin, convincing all parties to go along with it.

In the meantime, Wednesday's announcement should at least slow down any thoughts of the Rams relocating after this season. That isn't to say they're staying or leaving in the long term, but NFL relocation guidelines stipulate that a team can't just up and move as long as there's a good-faith effort on the city's part to salvage a solution.

If nothing else, finally having someone in a position of power comment on the situation was a show of that good faith and a small, but important step toward keeping the Rams in St. Louis.