The St. Louis Rams want to move back to Los Angeles because the St. Louis market is a dud and because attendance is bad despite “significant” investments in the team by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, according to the team’s relocation filing obtained Tuesday night by USA TODAY Sports.
Stadium officials in St. Louis also failed to keep a big promise they made to lure the team from Los Angeles in 1995 – to provide the Rams with a “first-tier” stadium in St. Louis, according to the Rams’ filing.
So now they want to move back to L.A., where Rams ownership believes its stadium plan near the L.A. airport is “superior” to the one being jointly proposed by the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders in nearby Carson, Calif. All three teams filed applications Monday to relocate to Los Angeles County in 2016, subject to a vote by NFL owners that could happen as soon as next week in Houston.
The NFL has said it will support only one new stadium in Los Angeles capable of housing two NFL teams — giving all three teams motive to argue why their plan in L.A. is better than the other and why their current city is no longer viable. Only the Rams’ application was obtained by USA TODAY Sports Tuesday night.
Sometimes the Rams’ application language is stark about the team’s current home. “St. Louis is not a three professional team market,” the application states in a bold heading, referring to the city’s baseball Cardinals, hockey Blues and NFL Rams.
The Ram’s application argues that trading small-market St. Louis for big-market Los Angeles would strengthen the league.
“Compared to all other U.S. cities, St. Louis is struggling,” the team states in its application.
It cites studies that demonstrate that “Los Angeles is a strong market with great opportunity, while St. Louis is a market that will in all likelihood be unable to sustain three professional sports teams.”
The Rams have not had a winning season since 2003 after finishing this past season with a 7-9 record. Even so, the Rams’ application boasts about ownership’s investment in the on-the-field product and implies that ownership is not getting a good return on this investment from the St. Louis fan base.
“The current Rams ownership’s investment in the on-the-field Rams team has been significant,” the Rams’ application states.
“The Rams have consistently spent to the salary cap in each year under Stan Kroenke and have significantly increased the coaching and scouting budgets…Despite these investments and engagements, Rams attendance since 2010 has been well below the league’s average. The combination of low attendance and the lack of pricing power… has consistently placed the Rams in the low fourth quartile in gross ticketing receipts generally between 60% and 70% of the NFL average per game for the regular season.”
Comparing the three cities and teams, the Rams’ application cites the team’s popularity in L.A., saying that surveys show “greater demand for the return of the Rams than any NFL team.” The Rams also cite studies that show that “San Diego and Oakland are significantly more attractive markets than St. Louis, which is projected to be 26th in growth among NFL markets moving forward.”
“St. Louis is already the smallest market of the three in both population and gross domestic product (“GDP”) before factoring in future growth,” the team’s application states.
A St. Louis stadium task force has been pushing a $1.1 billion riverfront stadium proposal in a bid to keep the Rams. It calls for $250 million from NFL team ownership, a $300 million loan from the NFL and $160 from the sale of seat licenses.
The Rams don’t like it.
“No NFL club would be interested” in the new St. Louis stadium, the team’s application states.”Any NFL club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the League will be harmed.”
Among the reasons given in the team’s application:
–“The private contribution is the largest of any non-Top 10 market since 2000.”
–“The public contribution is only $355 million – less than the $400 million the (task force) promised the (NFL) owners in New York.”
–“The rent and operating structure are 20 times what the Rams pay now.”
The Rams’ application arguments drew a rebuke Tuesday night from the St. Louis stadium task force.
“The Rams’ assessment of their experience in St. Louis after 21 seasons of remarkable support by fans, businesses and the community is inaccurate and extremely disappointing,” the St. Louis task force said in a statement. “We will remain in contact with league officials and team owners, as appropriate, in the days ahead of the meeting in Houston. Otherwise, nothing has changed. We have a spectacular stadium proposal that delivers the certainty the NFL has asked for, and we are and will continue to be an excellent home for the St. Louis Rams.”
Kroenke is pushing a privately financed $1.86 billion stadium in Inglewood, near the L.A. airport. The Carson project backed by the Raiders and Chargers is projected to cost $1.7 billion and also is to be privately financed.
The Rams say their plan will make more money for the league.
“The Inglewood stadium can host an additional 30,000 fans on a standing room only basis, which allows for much greater shared ticketing revenue for regular season, postseason and Super Bowl,” the Rams’ application states. “We believe an Inglewood Super Bowl could generate as much as $50 million more in league revenue than the Carson proposed stadium based on increases in seat capacity, premium seating and total number of suites.”
All three teams are dissatisfied with the aging stadiums in their current markets and lack actionable or acceptable new stadium plans in their current cities. To boost their business prospects, they have pursued more certain stadium paths in L.A., the nation’s second-biggest television market.
In the Rams’ case, the team’s application states that the Rams have a legal right to relocate because the owner and landlord of the Edward Jones Dome failed to live up their end of the bargain in a lease that stipulated they would provide the team with a “first-tier” stadium until March 2025. This promise was made in 1995, the year the Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles.
“The Rams would never have agreed to relocate and move to St. Louis without the First Tier Promise,” the application states.
Follow sports reporter Brent Schrotenboer on Twitter @Schrotenboer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org