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St. Louis reveals stadium plan aimed at keeping the NFL in town

The Gateway to the West is hoping to keep pro football in the city, and presented plans on a new stadium on Friday.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Plans for a new 64,000-seat NFL stadium in St. Louis were revealed on Friday afternoon, the end result of a task force appointed by the Missouri governor with a goal of keeping the Rams in the city or drawing another NFL team should the Rams relocate.

The open air stadium is estimated to cost between $860 and $985 million, with roughly half of that total being paid for with public funds. However, the task force said that can be paid for without creating a "new tax burden" for the community and state, through extending the bonds used to pay for the Edward Jones Dome. The task force expects the team to make a contribution of $200 million "or more," which would be eligible for a matching loan of up to $200 million through the NFL's G4 stadium financing program.

Planners estimate that the facility could be completed by 2020, with a start date in 2016. Designs for the facility would also accommodate a professional soccer team.

The team, specifically its owner real estate magnate Stan Kroenke, would not own the stadium. Instead he would lease it, and the task force said that it expects a long-term lease with the team on the facility.

Kroenke announced plans to build a stadium in Los Angeles on Monday. Although the Rams were not named specifically as the occupants of the planned development in Inglewood, subsequent reports said that Kroenke was in fact eyeing the possibility of moving his team back to its former home, where it played from 1946-1994. Kroenke owns a 60-acre plot in Inglewood, Calif. adjacent to where The Forum once stood. He is partnering with the Stockbridge Capital Group to build a stadium, retail and entertainment complex on the land he owns as well as the land adjacent to it, owned by Stockbridge.

In November, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon commissioned Edward Jones Dome attorney Robert Blitz and former Anheuser-Busch president David Peacock to put together a plan for an NFL stadium in St. Louis. The duo has come up with an open-air stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River. While the financing remains somewhat a mystery, civic and political leaders have hedged on just how much of the project would be publicly funded.

The Rams got a sweetheart deal to relocate to St. Louis in 1995. That included a team-friendly lease on the Dome. The team pays the city Convention and Visitors Commission $250,000 per year for rent and another quarter million dollars annually for upkeep. The lease also included a clause allowing the Rams to get out of the agreement if the facility was not "first tier," i.e. among the top quarter of all NFL stadiums, by the year 2015.

The team and the CVC went to arbitration two years ago to settle dueling plans over renovations that would make the Dome "first tier." The CVC offered a modest proposal under $200 million dollars, with the team and the public splitting the cost. The Rams offered an overhaul that included a retractable roof estimated at $700 million, with no specifics on how to pay for the project. Arbitrators sided with the Rams, the CVC declined to undertake the pricey renovation and that triggered the escape clause in the team's lease.

On Jan. 28, Kroenke must decide whether to make the 30-year lease a year-to-year lease, allowing him the option to bolt. He is widely expected to do just that.

The Dome was completed in 1995, financed largely by $256 million in revenue bonds, with the costs split between the city, county and state governments. They're paying off the bonds over 30 years for a total of more than $700 million. The Missouri state government pays $12 million per year; St. Louis and St. Louis County each spend $6 million every year to pay off the bonds.

If the Rams leave for Los Angeles, it will be the second time an NFL team has left the St. Louis market. The city lost the Cardinals following the 1987 season, watching them move to Phoenix after 28 seasons.