Uncertainty over home dome remains for Rams

Uncertainty over home dome remains for Rams

ST. LOUIS (AP) An attorney for the agency that runs the home of the St. Louis Rams says it is unlikely it will implement the team's plan to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome.

Already, there is speculation about a new stadium.

Arbitrators ruled last week in favor of the team's plan for upgrading the dome to ``top-tier'' status as required by the lease agreement with the dome owner, the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission. The CVC had proposed $124 million in renovations. The Rams didn't put a price tag on their plan but CVC and city officials believe it would cost $700 million to $800 million.

The CVC has 30 days from the date of the ruling on Friday to decide if it will try to implement the Rams' plan, though attorney Greg Smith said Monday that step was ``unlikely.'' Smith did not offer a timetable on the CVC decision.

A spokesman for the Rams did not return messages seeking comment Monday. But Jeff Rainford, chief of staff for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, said there was almost no chance the CVC will even try to garner public support for spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to improve the dome.

``It will clearly be the job of the St. Louis civic community to keep the Rams in St. Louis, but with the least amount of public subsidy possible,'' Rainford said.

Unless the CVC implements the plan approved by arbitrators, the Rams' lease of the dome becomes year-to-year starting in March 2015. That creates the possibility that the Rams could leave St. Louis.

Rams management has said the team wants to stay, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week he was hopeful the stadium situation would be resolved. But the Rams have also been adamant that the dome is inferior to most NFL stadiums.

The CVC a year ago proposed improvements that included better amenities and a massive new scoreboard. It would have required to Rams to pay for $64 million of the $124 million cost. Voter approval in the city and county would have been required for the rest.

The Rams countered with a much more elaborate plan calling for a new roof with a sliding panel, replacing much of the brick exterior with a glass front, even re-routing a nearby street. The Rams did not say how it would be funded.

Three members of the American Arbitration Association - retired Colorado judge Federico C. Alvarez of Denver, former judge David Blair of Sioux City, Iowa, and labor attorney Sinclair Kossoff of Chicago - found problems with the dome that indicated a need for a massive overhaul. Among other things, they noted it is among the smallest stadiums in the NFL, and wrote the dome ``lacks openness, light and air'' that would require installation of an expensive retractable roof to resolve.

Some in St. Louis believe the answer is a new stadium. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch cited three possible locations: In Fenton, at the site of a former Chrysler plant; near Interstate 70 in Maryland Heights, not far from the Rams' practice and office complex; and in the Bottle District north of downtown St. Louis, an area not far from the dome.

Fenton Mayor Dennis Hancock said no one from the Rams has approached him.

``That being said, if somebody wants to build a stadium on that site I think it's something we would be interested in working with them on and try to create something that would be positive for the region and the city of Fenton,'' Hancock said.

The mayor in Maryland Heights did not return a message left Monday morning. Rainford and Mike Jones, senior policy adviser for St. Louis County executive Charlie Dooley, declined to speculate about a new stadium.

But Jones said, ``The real question becomes what happens next? I don't think that discussion has even begun.''

Any plans for public funding to help build the stadium would likely go to a vote of residents of St. Louis city and county.

Taxpayers are already footing the bill for the existing dome, which cost more than $300 million when it was constructed in the mid-1990s. However, repayment for the 30-year bonds that financed it will total $720 million. The state of Missouri pays $12 million annually toward that debt; the city and St. Louis County pay $6 million each.

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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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