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Volume 24 No. 113


St. Louis area officials in nine months "must decide how much they're willing to pay, and where the money will come from, to prevent the Rams from breaking their lease of the Edward Jones Dome," according to Matthew Hathaway of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. There is "no dollar figure yet and no detailed talks have taken place among the group of governments that built the downtown stadium 16 years ago." The Rams' lease contains a "requirement that come 2015, the Dome must be a 'top-tier' facility -- one that's superior to three-quarters of all NFL venues." Local leaders "may be hoping to persuade the Rams to waive the 'top-tier' requirement," but "no one expects" Rams Owner Stan Kroenke "to do that for free." Persuading Kroenke "likely would involve millions in publicly funded improvements." Bob O'Loughlin, Chair of the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, which manages the Dome, said, "No one is losing sight of the lease and the fact that, pretty soon, we've all got to talk." He added, "We've said to the ownership that we'd love to sit down with you sooner rather than later to discuss the future. We were told to wait." Hathaway noted finding a public funding source to upgrade the Dome "will be difficult when local governments are still paying off the original construction debt." The lease "calls for the Rams to stay in town through 2025, but only if St. Louis keeps its end of the bargain" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/1).

Churchill Downs Inc. is "moving to protect its equine roots by moving beyond those roots," according to a front-page piece by Gregory Hall of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. The company last year for the first time "got more profit -- 53 percent -- from online wagering and casino gambling than horse racing." CDI, which "once owned as many as seven racetracks," now has four. And CDI President & CEO Bob Evans said that it is "possible that number could shrink." Evans noted that the tracks that make the cut "likely will have something beyond the routine day-in and day-out racing." Hall notes Churchill Downs racetrack "has the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, and the company's tracks in New Orleans and Florida have casino-style gambling." Evans "calls Arlington Park in Chicago 'the most exposed' of the company's tracks." He "chafes at any suggestion" that CDI's addition of an online wagering business and purchase of a stand-alone casino "compromise the company's commitment to horse racing." He said that diversification "has allowed his company to weather the recession even as the racing industry as a whole has declined." Annual betting on U.S. racing since '05 has declined 21.5%. In that same period, CDI's own revenues have risen 64%. And in the past five years, the company's stock "has risen more than 9 percent." Evans said that CDI's proceeds from the Oaks and Derby are "likely enough to sustain it, and represent 'a big chunk' of the company's racing earnings." But Evans conceded that "even Churchill could see fewer racing days eventually" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 5/1).  

Minnesota state Rep. Bev Scalze said that she “thinks it's possible that an open-air stadium -- the Vikings' stated preference -- could be constructed and the Metrodome could remain standing.” In St. Paul, Dave Orrick noted a proposed 13-member task force would “figure out how the facility can be self-funded, hiking rents and fees if necessary, perhaps even changing ownership.” If “none of that can work, the task force could recommend other sources of revenue to keep the place afloat.” If “there's no hope, officials could decide to raze the Dome” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/1).

HARD TO RESIST? In London, Jacquelin Magnay reports Qatari officials “plan to unveil retractable seating and a brand new athletics track at their flagship Khalifa Stadium in their bid to host” the ‘17 World Track & Field Championships. The Qataris “plan to revamp Khalifa, a 50,000 seat football stadium, to accommodate a new running track with retractable seating so that it can then be converted to host one of the semifinal FIFA world cup matches” (London TELEGRAPH, 5/2).

SAFETY FIRST: In Charlotte, Jim Utter notes NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon on Saturday wrecked at Richmond Int'l Raceway at an area where "SAFER barriers have not been installed." Utter asks “Why, 10 years after the death of one of NASCAR’s biggest stars, are there still areas of race tracks not covered by the SAFER barriers?” The barriers “certainly … have proved effective," so there is “little excuse that a decade isn’t long enough to rectify this problem” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/2).