If you’ve never been to Mendocino County, I can confirm that it is, in fact, in the precise middle of nowhere. Internet service is, from what I can tell, powered by a circling turkey vulture, attached to one of those kite tethers that are all the rage right now.
All of which is by way of apology for missing Friday’s announcement by the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission that it won’t be giving St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke the arbitrator-approved $700 million he wanted to keep the Edward Jones Dome “top tier,” as required in his ridiculous stadium lease. And St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s office applauded the decision: “Everybody’s on the same page,” Slay’s chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, told the Associated Press. “It was a no-brainer. There was nobody in St. Louis who thought that the Rams proposal was a good idea, other than the Rams.”
This means that the Rams will now revert to a year-to-year lease starting in 2015, which has predictably started the OMG the Rams are going to move stories: The Denver Post’s Mike Klis suggests Los Angeles as a destination, while NBC Sports’ Mike Florio floats London. Neither of which is happening in 2015, clearly, since neither has an NFL-ready stadium or one in the works, but I’m sure Kroenke appreciates the help in raising fears that he’ll take the team elsewhere if he doesn’t get a new round of monetary aid from St. Louis taxpayers.
Because tough talk from Rainford aside, that’s what Friday’s announcement means: Not a “shut the door behind you when you leave,” but rather “$700 million to renovate an 18-year-old stadium isn’t going to work for us, what else you got?” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is reportedly already talking to Rams officials about a Plan B — possibly an entirely new stadium, as has been rumored in the past — now that the old lease terms are out the window.
This could potentially work out to St. Louis’ advantage, since the old lease was a complete disaster from the public’s perspective, and with a public referendum required for any city or state money to go to a Rams stadium, Nixon will have the backup to drive a tough bargain — or at least, a tougher bargain than $700 million in unmarked twenties. The NFL is the toughest league for cities to exert leverage with, since media market size doesn’t matter nearly so much as a lucrative stadium deal — that’s how St. Louis ended up grabbing the Rams from much-larger Los Angeles in the first place — but with few other cities even potentially offering new stadiums at the moment, and with Kroenke a local boy, this seems like an opportune time to test exactly how much leverage St. Louis has here.