Recently, St. Louis Rams’ majority owner, Stanley Kroenke, purchased a large amount of land in Los Angeles. The Rams are currently in disputes with state and local officials over trying to get a deal to construct a new stadium in the downtown St. Louis area. The team’s lease on the Edward Jones Dome is set to expire in 2015 and very little headway has been made in negotiating the possibility of a new stadium. With the new land acquisition in California, fans in St. Louis are left wondering if the Rams will be relocating.
Stanley Kroenke is a 66-year-old billionaire who is a native of the state of Missouri. In September of 2013, Kroenke was ranked as the 84th richest person in the world by Forbes Magazine. He is worth an estimated $5.3 billion and is also the husband of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton’s niece, Ann Walton-Kroenke. Kroenke made his fortune in the real estate business as an area developer for Wal-Mart. As an avid sports fan, Kroenke enjoys investing in professional sporting franchises. He not only owns the Rams, but also the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the English Premier League soccer team, Arsenal.
There is a very important clause in the Rams’ contract with the city of St. Louis. The cause states that if in 2015, the Rams’ stadium is not one of the “top tier” stadiums in the NFL, the team will be able to relocate. This means the Edward Jones Dome must be one of the top eight finest facilities in the league. With the lease about to expire, the Rams have a couple of options concerning either finding a new facility or staying in St. Louis.
The team can resign a lease on the Edward Jones Dome. However, it appears that if the team does decide to do this, they will only sign one-year contracts at a time in order to keep their options open. This poses the problem of selling box seats. The average person cannot afford these and NFL teams rely of companies to purchase them for entire seasons. Normally, companies will sign a multi-year contract with the team to have the boxes. By having a year-to-year lease on the stadium, companies are less inclined to buy these boxes because they do not know if the Rams will leave St. Louis before their contract expires.
They could also pay to renovate the current stadium. Kroenke and the Rams’ organization would prefer a new stadium all together. In 2012, the franchise turned down a proposal worth $700 million in order to renovate the stadium. The first option is a temporary fix to a problem that will only worsen each year, and the second has already been rejected. There is one other choice. The team could just pack up and move.
A few things stand in the way of moving an NFL franchise from one city to another. Kroenke would need to obtain multiple permits from the city of Los Angeles and then hire a construction company to begin the project. He would also need to prove he has enough room for parking. One of the best parts of going to a football game is the tailgating. In St. Louis, there is very little room around the Edwards Jones Dome to provide for tailgate parties. This is one thing that would need to change in order to make the league think about relocating a team. However, it does not seem 60 acres would be enough to accommodate this situation, as well as a stadium in such a large city. There is always a way around this problem. The new land acquisition sits between a 260 acres business development and the LA Forum. With a couple of deals, the parking arrangement could quickly be taken care of.
The team’s front office would then need to file a relocation application with the NFL. The team must prove to the commissioner that all chances of getting a new stadium in the current city have vanished. They then must find a temporary facility in their new city while their stadium is being constructed. Finally, once all this is secured, three fourths of all the NFL franchise owners must approve the request before the team can move.
Of course there is a way around all this. In 1994, two NFL teams left Los Angeles. One was the now St. Louis Rams. The other was the Oakland Raiders. Raiders’ owner Al Davis was not approved to move his team out of Los Angeles. Instead he simply sued the NFL under the United States Anti-Trust Act. Obviously he won and the Raiders are now in Oakland. The league would definitely not want to have this type of lawsuit against them again because losing would mean the NFL pays triple the damages to the owner.
There is definitely a huge incentive to moving the Rams back to Los Angeles. If Kroenke does decide to spend the $700 million in fees and the costs of construction, he would be jacking up the franchise’s value. The Rams are currently worth an estimated $750 million. Just by moving to Los Angeles, that number would jump to about $2.2 billion. With this in mind, Kroenke would have no problem relocating the team. The only reason he would want to stay in St. Louis is if the Missouri taxpayers were to fork out the money for his new stadium.
That simply will not happen. Missouri residents refused to fully fund the St. Louis Cardinals' new stadium and they will do the same here. In fact, there is far less support to help the Rams than the Cardinals. St. Louis is a baseball town through and through. Everything else is just extra. The Cards have been a huge part of the town and their place in the Midwest for over a century, whereas the Rams had three good years before reverting back to being one of the laughing stocks of the NFL. At the end of the day, the Cardinals’ got their stadium because they have larger fan base nationwide and are much more capable than the Rams at bringing money into the city.
The government has been more than accommodating to the Rams’ owner. As mentioned earlier, they offered him $700 million in cash to renovate the Edwards Jones Dome. Aside from that, they have offered the franchise every tax cut in the book. Officials are trying to make it as cheap as possible for Kroenke and the Rams to stay in town. However, when it comes to fully funding a brand new stadium, government officials will not budge. They simply will not spend that amount of tax payers' money on a building for sporting events.
Now that we know where the Rams and St. Louis’ government stand, where does this leave the fans? Like any city with a professional sports team, there are a few who believe St. Louis should keep the Rams at all costs. This is an overwhelming minority of people. The major consensus throughout St. Louis is that it is not worth spending the tax dollars needed to build the team a new stadium. Citizens are fine with giving the Rams tax incentives to stay. They may even be negotiable on spending some money on the project, but financing the whole thing is completely out of the question. After all, even the city’s beloved baseball team had to pay some of their own money to get what they wanted.
If Kroenke does decide the move the team, it would not be the first time this has happened to the city of St. Louis. The Arizona Cardinals once called St. Louis home. They spent many more years in the city than the Rams did. Even they walked away. St. Louis has been through it before and can do it again. In fact, it might even be easier this time around. There is not as much of a connection between the Rams and the citizens of St. Louis as there was with the former St. Louis Football Cardinals.
This debate between the city and the Rams is far from over. So far neither side is budging, and very little work has been done on coming to an agreement. Kroenke’s new land acquisition simply puts more pressure on the city to make a decision on whether or not a new stadium will be built. No matter where it is, the Rams have made it clear they want a new stadium and are going to do whatever is necessary to get one. Though it is not yet clear what Stanley Kroenke will use the land for, it introduces the possibility of not having an NFL team in the Gateway City.
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