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We have discussed the arms race in collegiate athletics many times here over the last couple of years, but college is not the only place that the race is taking place. The NFL, the world's most successful professional sports league, is engaged in an arms race of its own and the timing couldn't be worse for some cities. Just as the league is on the verge of reopening the collective bargaining agreement, bringing with it labor uncertainty for the 2010 season, the opening of new stadiums in Indianapolis, Dallas (Arlington) and New York (New Jersey) and the recent opening of the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale is likely to trigger "state of the art" clauses in the leases of both the St. Louis Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals before 2015.
The Rams' lease with St. Louis County for the Edward Jones Dome contains a clause that requires the County to provide the Rams a venue that ranks in the top 25% of the NFL by 2015. With the addition of the new stadiums currently coming online, and the age of the dome, there is little likelihood that renovations could be made to the Edward Jones Dome to bring into the top 8 in the league. That would mean the County would be required to build the Rams a new stadium at a cost near the $1 billion that is being spent on the new Cowboys Stadium. Of course, given the long lead time for these matters, decisions about a new stadium are going to have to be made in the next two years or the Rams are going to be free to consider alternatives, including relocation. It is not lost on the powers that be in St.Louis that the new owner, Chip Rosenbloom, Georgia Frontiere's son, lives in Los Angeles.
The Bengals lease for Paul Brown Stadium also contains a state of the art clause, requiring Hamilton County to install any new technologies in use by 14 other NFL teams. With the new stadiums coming online and other stadiums upgrading to compete with them, the cost to the taxpayers of Hamilton County for upgrades to Paul Brown Stadium in the next decade could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. I guess the good news is, at least they won't have to build an entirely new stadium.
You have to hand it to the NFL owners thought. Once again, they demonstrate the power of the NFL brand and ability to wring the maximum out of governments when lease deals are on the table. Blackmail is a wonderful thing when you are the blackmailer and the NFL owners are never shy about exploiting their ability to blackmail cities and counties. It's the local taxpayers left holding the ransom bag.