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Arbitrators are scheduled to release a decision in March about what constitutes a fair plan for Edward Jones Dome renovations. The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission first proposed a $124 million plan. The Rams said “no thanks” and countered with an estimated $700 million proposal. Arbitrators could pick one of the two, or they could devise their own solution.
The Rams certainly could include in the documentation the fact that the franchise found renewed success in 2012—but didn’t see a major increase in fan support.
The surprising and uplifting 7-8-1 finish to the season did lead to an increase in attendance, but the Rams still languished at 30th in a 32-team league.
The Rams drew an average of 56,703 fans to the Edward Jones Dome during seven home games, climbing one spot in attendance from last year’s 31st-place finish with an average of 56,394 fans per game. Remember, a “home” game also was played in London against the New England Patriots in late October.
The Rams' attendance was ahead of only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, two of the biggest flops of the 2012 season. Another alarming mark is that the Rams played to just 86.8 percent of the dome’s capacity—meaning 13.2 percent of available seats went unsold. Only Miami (76.3), Tampa Bay (83.9), San Diego (84.1), and Oakland (86.0) were worse.
On the west side of the state, the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the franchise’s worst seasons both on and off the field. In December, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and, within an hour, took his own life at the team’s practice facility, with head coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli as witnesses. After the team's abysmal 2–14 season, the Chiefs fired Crennel. Yet Kansas City still managed to finish 16th in attendance, with an average of 68,508 fans per game, and the team played to 89.3 percent of capacity at Arrowhead Stadium. In April 2006, voters in Jackson County approved a tax increase to finance municipal bonds for part of Arrowhead's $375 million renovation.
The Rams can argue before arbitrators that fans might support the team, but they don’t seem to like the Edward Jones Dome.
While years of poor play have hurt the Rams’ attendance, the Blues have managed to avoid a plunge in attendance. Last season’s resurgence lifted the Blues to ninth in NHL average attendance, with 18,809 fans per game. They were topped by only Chicago, Montreal, Philadelphia, Detroit, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver—all larger metropolitan areas and/or Canadian-based teams. It's worth noting that this season's three-month NHL lockout cost St. Louis an estimated $1.3 million in revenue.
The Rams franchise has a favorable lease on its side during the dome negotiations—and it can now argue the building has a negative impact on attendance unless it undergoes a dramatic upgrade.
Commentary by Alvin Reid