Are the Rams Returning to the City of Angels?

I don’t want to get too excited about the Rams returning to Los Angeles because I really don’t like to count my proverbial chickens before they hatch and find myself with bitter disappointment.

But………Can it be? Are the Moons aligning? In the names of Merlin, Youngblood, Deacon, Crazy Legs and Roman, are the Rams beginning the process of moving back to Los Angeles?

At the moment, all signs seem to be pointing in that very direction.

Published reports from St. Louis and Los Angeles are abuzz with stories regarding the sale of the Rams and two possible sites in the greater Los Angeles area for a state-of-the-art NFL stadium.

In the “Gateway City”, writers from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch believe St. Louis losing an NFL franchise for the second time seems inevitable while Bernie Miklasz of stltoday.com and ESPN Radio refuses to suggest such a notion even though he clearly sees the writing on the wall.

Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke wants full control of the franchise and is looking to purchase it from Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez.  At issue, Kroenke owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. The NFL has rules against cross-ownership of teams in other major U.S. sports leagues. Kroenke seems to be able to clear such hurdles by signing over controlling interests of his other major sports teams to other family members.

Kroenke, also, seems to be working with L.A. sports & entertainment big-wigs to get them back where they belong, LOS ANGELES.

Earlier this week, St. Louis Globe-Democrat columnist Howard Balzer wrote:

It turns out Kroenke is a member of the league’s Los Angeles Stadium Working Group committee. Roll that one around in your mind a few minutes. Everyone I mentioned that to Thursday was silent for a few seconds, and then said, “Oh, my God.”

It means Kroenke is privy to every detail, every plan, simply everything that is related to those trying to get a stadium built there.

Then on Thursday, Los Angeles Times columnist Sam Farmer wrote that businessmen Casey Wasserman, who owned the L.A. Avengers of the defunct Arena Football League, and AEG’s Tim Leiweke are considering a plan to build a privately funded stadium behind the Staples Center where the West Hall of the Convention Center currently sits. They tried this about eight years ago, but they backed out when the Coliseum Commission tried to make its own bid that, also, failed.

In a follow-up article from Saturday’s L.A. Times, Farmer added Wasserman and Leiweke want the proposed $1 billion stadium to have a retractable roof for use year round for a number of other events.

The Coliseum Commission isn’t a factor any longer because it’s locked in with USC which has rights of first refusal because the Trojans football team is the Coliseum’s major tenant.

The stadium would complete the L.A. Live entertainment corridor that was envisioned by AEG when the Staples Center was first built. Of course, the stadium proposal would need to be approved by the City of Los Angeles because the convention center is owned by the city.

In the article, Farmer added:

What’s more, the downtown bid would put Wasserman and Leiweke in direct competition with developer Ed Roski, who already has an entitled and shovel-ready piece of land in City of Industry to build a football stadium. There is only room for one such project in the L.A. area, and the Industry group is at least a year ahead of any other because it has clearance to build.

Another problem exists with the NFL. The current collective bargaining agreement ends after next season. The league is trying to avoid a labor dispute and subsequent work-stoppage in 2011.

The sticking point, team owners want the players to help in paying off the huge stadium costs.

The new CBA will take at least a year to negotiate which means no stadium will be built or team will re-locate while the NFL takes care of its CBA. That’ll give Wasserman and Lewieke a year to catch up with Roski.

When the time comes, I think these two competing stadium teams might want to join forces and work together on one site to benefit the greater Los Angeles Area, the NFL, maybe the Rams, and, first and foremost, the long suffering Los Angeles Rams fans.

The Rams called Los Angeles home for 49 years before (gulp) Georgia Frontiere moved them to St. Louis in 1994 claiming Los Angeles wouldn’t support them because there was too much to do in Southern California other than watch football.

I said it then and I’ll say it now. HELLO! 49 YEARS! Needless to say, Georgia pulled a “Major League” getting a sweet money deal in St. Louis while still residing in Bel-Air.

The City of Angels could soon be celebrating the Rams 50th Anniversary in Los Angeles (16 years, and counting, in the making) with St. Louis losing its second NFL franchise. That doesn’t have to happen.

Here’s a thought. When the Rams move back to Los Angeles, how about moving the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars to St. Louis and re-naming them the Stallions. Wasn’t that the idea when the league expanded 16 years ago anyway?

As far as a second team in the new Los Angeles Stadium.  Do you really think Chargers owner Alex Spanos will sit put in San Diego and play in an aging Qualcomm Stadium when he can move his team into a state-of-the-art play-pen back in its original home just up Interstate 5?

Los Angeles NEEDS the NFL

Here’s a commentary I wrote to the Downtown News “fish rap” in Los Angeles, California.

Los Angele$ NEED$ the NFL

During the NFL season, all the way through the playoffs and Super Bowl, I write predictions for each game on my blog, onanygivensportsday.com, and end each weeks picks with this line:

BYE WEEK OR MISSED PLAYOFFS: LOS ANGELES*
*15 seasons, 22 weeks and counting……….

The “15 seasons, 22 weeks” reflects the time passed since the last game the Rams and Raiders played locally, to the just completed Super Bowl XLIV (44).

Look at those numbers again. That’s 15 SEASONS and 22 WEEKS since the NUMBER TWO MARKET in the country, in terms of population, has reaped the financial benefits of having a National Football League franchise to call its own. Considering the greater Los Angeles area is known as “THE ENTERTAINMENT CAPITAL OF THE WORLD”, going 15 seasons and 22 weeks without the NFL is a COMPLETE DISGRACE.

From the 1973 season at the Coliseum as a kid to the final home game of the Los Angeles Rams at Anaheim Stadium on Christmas Eve 1994 as an adult, I had season tickets to Rams games. It’s absolutely pathetic to think that now two generations of L.A. kids have never been able to see an NFL game in person. Los Angeles kids have missed out on seeing the greatness of players like Brett Favre, Jerry Rice, Tom Brady and the like because L.A. isn’t part of the NFL. Driving to San Diego isn’t the same thing.

A huge THANK YOU to L.A. Sports & Entertainment Commission President Kathryn S. Schloessman for reminding us, in the February 8th edition of the DownTown News, what Los Angeles has been missing since two NFL franchises bolted the area at the end of the 1994 season; The added, huge, financial pay-out to the local economy for hosting the Super Bowl and the festivities during “Super Bowl Week” leading up to the championship game.

After calculating the numbers L.A.‘s missing out on without a National Football League franchise, President Schloessman wrote:

To be sure, we don’t need the NFL to be a world-class city. We don’t need an NFL team here for community identity. Los Angeles hasn’t and won’t suffer without an NFL team.

Schloessman’s right. Los Angeles doesn’t need the NFL to be a world-class city. Los Angeles doesn’t need the NFL for community identity. However, IT IS APPARENT THAT LOS ANGELES HAS SUFFERED, AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO, WITHOUT AN NFL TEAM, OR TWO. The financial calculations in her article connected with having a Super Bowl in L.A. are proof of that.

Let’s consider the current economic climate Los Angelenos find themselves in:

  • Unemployment in double-digits.
  • Vacant stores and lofts Downtown.
  • How about Los Angeles City Officials trying to find money to pay bills the only way they know how, by cutting jobs.

Wouldn’t building or renovating a stadium, surrounding it with an entertainment center including theatres, shops and restaurants a la “Staples Center & L.A. Live” and a Los Angeles NFL franchise create jobs and stimulate the local economy? YES! Not to mention what a secure spot in the Super Bowl rotation would mean financially as well.

A decade ago, Houston was awarded the NFL franchise that should’ve gone to the City of Angels. L.A. lost out because several local groups couldn’t work together, instead, competing to lure the NFL.  The huge thorn was the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission, which argued its old venue was the only viable site because it represented the home of NFL franchises in L.A. for half a century. Legal action was threatened against other suitors and the NFL if another site were picked to house L.A.’s team. The last thing the NFL wanted were legal hassles requiring time and money in court. Buh-Bye Los Angeles Stars…..Hello Houston Texans.

So, the Archaic Coliseum stands empty and adding cracks on Sundays. Meanwhile, Houston’s had pro football since 2002 in state-of-the-art Reliant Stadium which hosted Super Bowl 38 garnering Houston, what Schloessman estimated, $400 million to its local economy.

After all this, last May, Governor Schwarzeneggar, among other state properties, proposed selling the Coliseum to raise cash to help alleviate California’s growing fiscal issues.  COME ON! That idea comes a decade too late. Majestic Realty’s Ed Roski, who was then and is now, looking to build a stadium in the City of Industry…on his own dime….should have been offered the Coliseum to renovate back then and, by now, Los Angeles would have been back in the NFL game and having hosted not one but, most likely, two Super Bowls. Wouldn’t that have helped the local and state economy if it had happened. Maybe the governor can borrow money from Houston.

Within a 50 mile radius, the Los Angeles-Orange County metropolitan area houses two NBA franchises, two MLB franchises, two NHL franchises, even two MLS franchises in a brand new 35 thousand seat stadium in Carson. That begs the question, “why didn’t they build a second deck on the Home Depot Center doubling its capacity for the NFL?” Bottom line is this, based on these figures Los Angeles NEEDS to be home to TWO NFL FRANCHISES.

Full support by State and Local Government should be given to Mr. Roski and Majestic Realty to build that proposed $800 million stadium and entertainment center in the City of Industry returning the NFL to Los Angeles. That would instantly create construction jobs and, later, revenue for local business owners, the city and the state. The blue-print’s downtown in the form of L.A. Live. This needs to happen NOW.

One last issue. For those who don’t want a team, would rather watch football on television or go to the beach on a Sunday afternoon in Fall, more power to you. I’m sure there are 70 to 80 thousand fans who would love to watch the game in person for eight, or maybe even 16, of those Autumn Sundays…..and a Super Bowl every four years.

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