The NFL would benefit most by moving the Rams to Los Angeles, leaving behind a St Louis market that lags economically and a stadium proposal doomed for failure, the team said in their relocation application provided to the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke, a real estate billionaire who still lives in Missouri, has proposed building a $1.8bn stadium in Inglewood, California, with plans to put the Rams back in the market they left to move to St Louis in 1995. The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders want to move to the Los Angeles area, too, proposing to share a stadium that would be built in Carson, California. All three teams submitted applications last week and owners meeting January 12-13 in Houston could make a decision on relocation.
The Rams’ 29-page application, first obtained by the St Louis Post-Dispatch, lauds the Inglewood site, saying it has already been approved by the league as a potential stadium location and would offer far more than just a home for a sports team.
“The stadium serves as the epicentre for a NFL retail and entertainment district that includes a 6,000 seat theatre and up to 8.5m sq ft of office space, hotel retail and dining options,” the Rams said.
The team also explained in a withering assessment why St Louis is no longer worth staying for.
The application said Kroenke has made “significant investments” since taking control of the Rams in 2010, yet attendance is well below average. The team sold out every home game in St Louis from its arrival until 2006, but has rarely sold out in recent years in part because of on-the-field performance. The Rams have not had a winning season since 2003, and finished 7-9 this season.
Taxpayers funded construction of the Edward Jones Dome, which opened the year the Rams arrived. The unusual agreement between the dome authority and the team requires that the dome remain among the top tier of all NFL stadiums. Instead, it is generally considered among the worst, the Rams said, and 12 years of lease negotiations to rectify that were unsuccessful.
Last year, a taskforce appointed by Governor Jay Nixon developed plans for a $1bn stadium along the Mississippi river near the Gateway Arch. Aldermen have already agreed to contribute $150m toward the project, which also calls for state funding, money from personal seat licenses and funding from the league and the owner.
The Rams, though, said the stadium is doomed to failure. For one thing, it notes that the “rent and operating structure are 20 times what the Rams pay now.”
“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,” the Rams’ application said.
In a statement, the stadium taskforce said it has offered “a spectacular stadium proposal” that is everything the league has asked for.
“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 taskforce said.
The Rams raised doubts that the St Louis market, which also has baseball’s Cardinals and hockey’s Blues, can even support an NFL team.
The application cited two NFL-commissioned studies of the Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland and St Louis markets. It says one study characterized the California markets as vibrant and growing, but said St Louis “lags, and will continue to lag, far behind in the economic drivers that are necessary for sustained success of an NFL franchise.”
Those studies “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 application said.