As a former resident of Baltimore, my heart goes out to all St. Louis sports fans after St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, through a joint venture with the Stockbridge Capital Group, unveiled plans for a proposed NFL-ready stadium in the Los Angeles, California area.
The development group announced plans on Monday to build an 80,000-seat stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California.
I’ve seen this show before. As a 5-year-old, I can remember waking up early in the morning to my dad watching a Baltimore, Maryland television channel.
Cameras showed Mayflower moving trucks packed up with the Baltimore Colts gear and taking the team out of town, unannounced by owner Bob Irsay.
I remember to this day that I was crying and confused, trying to figure out what was happening to my favorite team.
More than 30 years later, it appears the Rams are likely heading out of town and returning to Los Angeles, where the team was previously from 1946-1994.
But for St. Louis, this would be the second time their fans would be devastated by a move. Remember, they lost the St. Louis Cardinals NFL team in 1987 when they were moved to Phoenix, Arizona.
With an even number of 32 NFL teams and no expansion plans in place for the league, a franchise might never return to one of the best sports cities in the country and that is unfortunate.
So how did St. Louis get here again?
I believe it started when the Rams ownership put an escape clause in the lease with the Edward Jones Dome that allowed them an “out” at the end of the 2014 season. The clause demanded the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission to upgrade the dome to become one of the eight best venues in the NFL before that time or the Rams’ lease would become a year-to-year proposition.
The St. Louis CVC proposed a $124 million upgrade in 2012 to help the facility become a “first tier” location; however, the Rams ownership group countered with a proposal of its own, reaching costs near $700 million.
City officials understood that such an investment wasn’t wise during a down economy.
Unfortunately, Kroenke’s group saw it as an opportunity to use leverage on the city.
Speculation grew each year as the St. Louis CVC chose to not make necessary improvements while Kroenke, who bought the team outright in 2010, chose to be low key on the issue in the public eye.
Then last February, Kroenke informed the NFL that he had purchased 60 acres of land near Los Angeles, California.
Speculation on the team’s future swirled for the rest of 2014, and with no improvements scheduled, a yearly lease has been signed for 2015.
With Monday’s media blitz, it appears the Rams could be leaving town as early as the 2016 season.
Though a stadium will not likely be built by then, the Rams could play in another stadium until a new one can be constructed.
Let’s face reality, the St. Louis CVC and Kroenke will compromise to make a deal at this point.
This process is moving quickly. All that will be needed in 2016 is for 24 of the 32 NFL owners to agree to a relocation effort.
With millions of television dollars ready for the taking in the second most populous city in the country, the move is inevitable.
Kroenke, who was a part of the ownership group with the late Georgia Frontiere to bring the team to St. Louis, is now, on his own, packing the team up and taking them out of town.
“St. Louis is my home, and I brought my team here to start a new dynasty,” Georgia Frontiere once said.
When she died in 2008, her son and daughter inherited 60% ownership stake in the team. They were on record in 2010 in expressing their hope for the team to be sold to Kroenke, likely with a continuing vision of keeping the NFL in St. Louis.
It doesn’t appear that Kroenke shares the same vision and St. Louis fans are about to experience a heartbreak that might never end.
“It would be crushing to me if we lost a NFL franchise for the second time,” announcer Joe Buck, from St. Louis, recently said.
“This city is too good for that. It is not a reflection of the city or the fans. In this case I think it is a reflection of the ownership that really is not invested in having a team here.”
Rams fans are in need of a Hail Mary to change this momentum but the clock is about to expire.