Setting the Stage for the Push to Keep the NFL in St. Louis

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Dome

Today, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced intensifying efforts to keep the National Football League St. Louis Rams in the region. Former Anheuser-Busch President Dave Peacock, a person with extensive connections and experience working with the NFL, has been tapped to lead the effort alongside Clayton attorney Bob Blitz. The two are charged with producing viable proposals the Governor can take to the league, and the Rams.

The hardest part about being a Rams fan is not knowing where the team is going to play next year. Forget losing our franchise QB in preseason and relying on our third-stringer to run the team. It’s not even enduring the worst losing record streak in the NFL.

The hardest part is knowing that come March 2015 the team can opt out of its lease at the Edward Jones Dome, can choose to go year-to-year or relocate to another city. It is especially hard to cheer for your team when you think they might not be as loyal to you as you are to them.

Both the team and its owner, Stan Kroenke, have avidly avoided making any remarks whatsoever about the team’s future. Kroenke is famously known as “Silent Stan”, and the silence has been deafening.

Kroenke and the Rams may be silent, but others have been talking. A couple weeks ago In Los Angeles, real estate development group Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) requested an extension on their plan to construct a new NFL stadium. The would be part of the city’s planned addition to the LA Convention Center, including $287M in new additions to the center itself. There’s one thing missing, a team to play in the new venue.

Of course, in January Kroenke purchased 60 acres in Inglewood, CA, near the Hollywood Park Racetrack and the Los Angeles Forum. Yahoo! Sports recently reported, citing an anonymous “league source”, that the NFL may see 2 teams relocate to Los Angeles this off-season. This increases the pressure not only on the St. Louis Rams but also on the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers, whose futures in their home cities are also in doubt. The LA Times is reporting the NFL is surveying the LA area for customer demand, “kicking the tires”, should a team relocate to LA in the near future.

Neither the sports media in both St. Louis nor Los Angeles has provided much more than confirmation bias in their reports, each trying to pitch breaking optimism to both sides. The Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell has made headlines about serious conversations going on now between St. Louis & Missouri leaders and the Rams about building a new stadium, perhaps along North Broadway, south of the Stan Musial Veterans Bridge and north of the Lumiere Place Casino.

Rams Stadium proposal response to St. Louis CVC - May 1, 2012{the CVC rejected this Rams proposal for a $700M retrofit to the Edward Jones Dome – image of $150M CVC proposal at top of article}

Meanwhile, CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora has made headlines stating, “I don’t see a situation where the Rams stay in St. Louis” (he also thinks the Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to London). Here in St. Louis, Rams’ Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Demoff, is asking Rams fans to remain positive. After all, we only have rumors and conjecture at this point.

Threats of an NFL team moving to Los Angeles, as leverage to get their home city to fund a new stadium, has been going on across the US for twenty years. New stadiums, or significant renovations, in Buffalo, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Charlotte, Arizona, and Minneapolis have all been completed under the cloud of possible relocation.

What is unknown, is where Kroenke wants the Rams to play. He has without question been a core element to the NFL being in St. Louis in the first place. Kroenke led efforts to secure a team in the 1995 NFL expansion, the St. Louis Stallions, a team that ultimately became the Jacksonville Jaguars. When the opportunity came for St. Louis to be home to the then-LA Rams, Stan Kroenke was quick to purchase 40% of the team from Georgia Frontiere, the late Rams owner, as a condition of the team’s relocation. He became full owner of the team in 2010.

InsideSTL.com published an excellent open letter to Stan Kroenke, wherein they respectfully ask him to reflect upon what his legacy will be in St. Louis, and Missouri, going forward: whether he’ll be remembered as “King Kroenke” for being loyal to his home by keeping his team playing here, or whether his moniker will be “Sellout Stan” for taking the Rams to LA.

Meanwhile, our elected representatives have maintained that they have been in active negotiations with the Rams to stay in St. Louis. Governor Jay Nixon is personally involved in the process, as the announcement today reaffirms. The St. Louis Convention Center and Visitors Commission and St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay have been at the table as well. Nixon has stated that any deal would have to economically benefit the state, while Slay has public pledged that any tax increase to support the deal would be put to a public vote.

An agreement forged in 1991 between the State of Missouri, St. Louis City and St. Louis County for financing of the Dome. The state’s annual obligation is $10 million for interest and principal and $2 million for maintenance; the county and city each pay $5 million for interest and principal and $1 million for maintenance annually. Debt service payments totaling $620M began in 1992 and end in 2022.

The recap: the Rams can break their 30-year lease if the dome is not considered to be within the top 20% of all NFL stadiums today. This agreement was written when a $300M stadium was considered top tier, but falls behind in today’s environment of $1B stadiums. As Kevin Demoff reminds us:

“Since the Edward Jones Dome has been built, 27 teams have had new stadiums built or have had over $400MM put into their current stadiums. Of the remaining stadiums – Buffalo, Jacksonville, St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland are the remaining five. Buffalo just had a transaction, that means the remaining four are going to be the candidates that any team talks about, any city looks at as a candidate for relocation because those stadium situations haven’t been solved. When you look at us, when you look at Oakland, when you look at San Diego… All teams have the ability to get out of their lease after this year, and in the case of both us and San Diego, we’re both natural candidates for conversation and the first place people target.”

The CVC proposed $150M of additions & improvements to the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams countered with a complete $700M retrofit, including a retractable dome. The Rams prevailed in arbitration and the CVC declined to accept the $700M plan, thus allowing the Rams to opt out of their current lease.

Reading the tea leaves takes us to Kroenke’s last real interview in 2010, Kroenke told the Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz, “I’m going to attempt to do everything that I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis, just as I did everything that I could to bring the team to St. Louis in 1995. I believe my actions speak for themselves.”

Still, that dedication fades in light of Kroenke’s Inglewood real estate deal, noting that the site is considered just large enough for an NFL stadium. By most understandings, this LA land buy may be more than just a hedge against negotiations going poorly for him, a Plan B.

Stan Kroenke and the Rams’ Goals for a New Stadium

Enos Stanley “Stan” Kroenke is, among other things, the founder of Kroenke Sports Enterprises; primary owner of real estate company The Kroenke Group; co-owner of real estate development firm THF Realty; an heir by marriage to the Walmart corporation, for which THF has a long history of building retail sites; the eighth-largest landowner in the United States; the second most wealthy owner of an NFL team; and a lifelong Missourian named after Cardinals greats Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial. Kroenke was just named the 89th richest person in the US by Forbes, with an estimated fortune of about $5.7B (with a B); his wife, Ann, ranks 96th on the Forbes list (11th richest woman) with a fortune of about $5B.

Kroenke Sports Enterprises is the parent company of Kroenke’s US sports teams, which include the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, MLS’ Colorado Rapids, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, and National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth. These companies are held in the name of Kroenke’s son Josh, in accordance with NFL rules that owners cannot own professional sports teams in different US markets. As well as the Rams, Kroenke is the majority shareholder of English football (er, soccer) club Arsenal.

  • Noting what the Ram’s lease requires the dome to be rated “Top Tier” among NFL facilities, and looking at Kroenke’s other franchises, we can see a pattern:
  • Equity ownership in the facility itself, whether fully or majority;
  • Ownership of retail facilities at the stadium site;
  • Ownership of parking facilities at the stadium site;
  • Naming rights for the stadium;
  • The ability to host non-football events at the stadium, such as concerts; and
  • Best recognizing the most cost-effective means to pay for the project through public-private partnerships.

On the Table in St. Louis

Three possible stadium sites have repeatedly been rumored:

The former Chrysler/Dodge plant in Fenton, two miles west of I-270 in Southwest St. Louis County. The site is essentially a giant paved flood plain with highway access and a rail spur, surrounded by the Meramec River, an office park, the headquarters for private company Maritz, and suburban residences. The site is similar to that of Patriot Place in Foxboro.

Camp Kroenke{the Fenton site shown with Patriot Place overlay}

The farm-covered Missouri River flood plains in Maryland Heights, near the Rams practice facility in Earth City, Riverport (Verizon) Amphitheater, and the Hollywood Casino complex. This site features access to the new Highway 141 near Creve Coeur Park a couple miles south of I-70 and west of 270. It’s in the middle of farmland, and would require extensive infrastructure development.

Downtown St. Louis sites including land directly north of the Edward Jones Dome originally set to be home to the “Bottle District” office/residential/entertainment development, and land between the Stan Musial Veterans Bridge and the Lumiere Casino, bordered by Broadway to the west and the Mississippi River to the east. This area has traditionally been light industry and railroad-related logistics operations. The downtown sites do not offer expansive land for tailgating, or parking development, but would provide a setting more like Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, site of Super Bowl XLVI.

The two sites in St. Louis County have been heralded exactly because both would offer Kroenke Sports Enterprises the opportunity own the stadium, and significant surrounding land. Kroenke would own any parking and retail developments that follow. Both may accommodate a tailgating experience similar to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.

Kroenke’s last real interview with the St. Louis sports press was with the Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz in 2010, before he closed on his deal to buy a majority interest in the Rams. Kroenke said his sister & his mother-in-law attend every Rams game, that they live in St. Louis, and that he would never scheme to move the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles.

“I’m born and raised in Missouri. I’ve been a Missourian for 60 years. People in our state know me. People know I can be trusted. People know I am an honorable guy. I’m going to attempt to do everything that I can.”

Any NFL team considering moving to Los Angeles for the 2015 season must announce their intentions to do so in the window of January 1 – February 15, 2015. Two weeks afterwards, at the beginning of March 2015, the Rams’ contract with the Edward Jones Dome becomes year-to-year. As painful as it may be right now for Rams fans, we may have to endure all the way until February 15th to know one way or the other whether the team will stay.

More from nextSTL:
February 2012 – In Effort to Keep Rams, St. Louis CVC Offers $60M, Asks Team for $64M to Push Dome to “Top Tier”
May 2012 – In Reply, Rams Tell CVC Retractable Roof and Much More Needed for “Top-Tier” Status
August 2012 – CVC Offers Rams Final Proposal for Top Tier Edward Jones Dome
February 2013 – Arbitration Panel Rules in Favor of Ram’s $700M Stadium Proposal, Retractable Roof and More

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  • Cal Rankin

    I don’t understand why LA needs a football team, especially with the huge number of pro sports already in the city: they have the Lakers and the Clippers (who are definite NBA finals material this year), plus the Dodgers and Angels, and the Kings and Ducks (the Kings just won the Stanley Cup as well). Even with a large population, there is still too much competition for the Rams in LA. That’s a lot of money being thrown into sports arenas.
    That said, if they do leave, I think that the Jaguars might try to move into St. Louis, despite the issues with the lease (which didn’t stop the Browns). There’s already competition for them in Florida with the well-established franchises of the Dolphins and Buccaneers.

  • Cal Rankin

    I don’t understand why LA needs a football team, especially with the huge number of pro sports already in the city: they have the Lakers and the Clippers (who are definite NBA finals material this year), plus the Dodgers and Angels, and the Kings and Ducks (the Kings just won the Stanley Cup as well). Even with a large population, there is still too much competition for the Rams in LA. That’s a lot of money being thrown into sports arenas.
    That said, if they do leave, I think that the Jaguars might try to move into St. Louis, despite the issues with the lease (which didn’t stop the Browns). There’s already competition for them in Florida with the well-established franchises of the Dolphins and Buccaneers.

  • Mike-H

    I don’t want to see the team leave, but do we really want to be held hostage by the billionaire boy’s club every 20 years? Once bitten, twice shy. . .

  • Alex Devlin

    This is something I’m so split on…I don’t want St. Louis to fund this horrible mess, but I dont want St. Louis to lose this symbol. If we could replace it with and MLS team, I’d be down.

  • apathetic about the Rams

    meh…

  • Andy

    It seems to me that overall support for the Rams in STL is pretty low. Has anyone ever figured out what the net economic impact has been on having the Rams here? I would be surprised if it has even really been positive when you consider all the concessions that the city has made in order to attract the Rams and live up to their stadium agreement.

    I say let them leave, the NFL as a whole is a corrupt and immoral league anyway.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Numerous studies have shown that there is no net positive economic impact from the presence of professional sports teams in a city. If you’re interested in more along those lines, check out Field of Schemes: http://www.fieldofschemes.com/

  • Spelling Cop

    It’s Bryan Burwell, not Kevin Burrell, and Miklasz, not Micklasz.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Thanks. Copy editor was on vacation. :/

  • moe

    There are many areas in the State of Missouri that Governor Nixon needs to “intensify his efforts on”. Bailing out a billionaire boy’s club is not one of them.
    One word Mr. Governor: NO.