Rams’ super-sweetheart lease is dead, talks begin on new stadium

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.


24 comments on “Rams’ super-sweetheart lease is dead, talks begin on new stadium

  1. Interesting that a move to London has been proposed as Kroenke owns Arsenal. I don’t think a soccer team that typically plays on Saturday could coexist with a football team playing on Sunday but it might be enough of a treat to scare municipal politicians.

  2. “…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.”

    It would certainly be interesting for a city to take a “show us what other offers ya got” approach in this situation.

    “…a public referendum required for any city or state money to go to a Rams stadium.”

    Unfortunately, we’ve seen how well these kinds of requirements are enforced when it comes down to citizen-push vs billionaire-shove.

  3. Both options, London and LA are still non-starters. Let’s look at the Rams to LA scenario: 1) Relocation fee ($200,000,000)??; 2) Build a stadium ($1,500,000,000 – that’s $1.5 billion); 3) find someone to subsidize at least half of the stadium costs; 4) find revenue streams that will at least pay the team owner enough to justify the move.
    I still don’t think there’s enough revenue floating around to pay for this.

  4. Any chance that someone at the NFL will just fold The Sheep and put them (and the rest of the league) out of their misery?

  5. The Rams are still clearing $20-30m a year in profits. With misery like this, who needs happiness?


  6. I don’t know, I feel like in the end St. Louis is just going to end up on the hook for a similar amount of money to build a new, less useful outdoor stadium in the county while the dome in the middle of downtown just sits unused for a decade while people talk about how pointless it is. IF that’s the case, I think they should’ve just fixed up the dome. Now if they’re actually willing to drive a better deal, that’s another story.

  7. @Joe
    Yeah, this is actually one of my bigger fears with regard to the dome.

    As for everything else, this hinges on the Slay administration’s ability to put together a better, um, deal than the folks who “negotiated” the last one. The Rams aren’t going to London or to LA (at least not any time soon) and they’re still turning a tidy little profit. Unfortunately, I have little faith that the city will be able to use its leverage in this situation to put together a better deal for taxpayers. Hope I’m wrong.

  8. @ Kalifornia Kid

    Relocation fees WILL NOT be $200 million, that’s not remotely realistic. The last few NFL relocation fees were only $1 million to each of the other 29 or 30 teams.

  9. It’s all about what city makes the best offer, if St. Louis says no public funding then the Rams will look elsewhere.

    LA is definitely still an option because they can support two teams in one venue like the Jets/Giants model. I still believe the Chargers and Rams will both eventually move back to LA. Nothing will be done in San Diego, it remains to be seen if St Louis will cave.

    If the NFL makes G-5 funds available to teams relocating then 2 teams could bring in $500 mil in NFL funds and another $500 million in PSL sales plus the PV of a $700+ million Farmers field like naming rights deal. That’s more than enough to build a 49ers type stadium in LA. Rams and Chargers share color schemes too.

    I get no owner wants to put up their own money for a stadium in LA but they surely wont do it to stay in San Diego and St. Louis. I guarantee Kroenke and Spanos will eventually discuss a shared venue in LA if they haven’t already and they don’t need an AEG in the way demanding ownership rights.

  10. If the NFL wanted LA they would already be there (The Rose Bowl is available until a New Stadium would be ready). The Chargers are just one example of this (playing in Qualcom instead of moving). This is just step one in getting the Rams a new Stadium in St Louis or the suburbs. Why is the league not in LA ? Many reasons including the fact that LA is an awful football City ( even USC does not sell out like Ohio State or Michigan), the cost of building the Stadium, and finding a location. But most of all, it is a perfect stick to use against Cities when it comes to negotiations over rebuilds and upgrades. In fact, this tactic is so successful that it was copied by the NBA & NHL with Seattle (Sacramento Kings & Phoenix oops Arizona Coyotes). The only difference is I bet Seattle actually will get teams before LA does.

  11. The Dome wouldn’t go unused, because the CVC could now bid on conventions that are held from August – January, which they can’t now because of potential conflicts with the Rams.

  12. @David

    You haven’t been paying attention. The only reason the NFL left LA and hasn’t returned is that LA taxpayers refuse to give the NFL money. Other cities are getting smart, San Diego isn’t going to pay for a new stadium, St. Louis doesn’t look like they’ll cave.

    LA is NOT an awful football city, that’s just ridiculous, the only issue is financing. No teams can move to LA before a new stadium plan is finalized.

    LA will only work with 2 teams sharing one stadium, 2 teams will only be interested if they can’t get taxpayer giveaways in their current city. That’s it, understand the history. The Colts, Cardinals, Rams, Raiders, Oilers, and Browns left for only 1 reason. 5 of the 6 went to smaller markets.

    It’s always and only about the money.

  13. London has Wembley. That is NFL ready. However remember, this is London. Has anyone been there? They’re not going to support NFL football. Goodell is smoking something. LA is to football what Florida is to baseball. It’s just a bad idea, everyone knows it.

  14. @Roger

    You don’t know what you are talking about with regards to London or LA. I lived in London and have been there on business every year since 97. There are more than enough NFL fans in London to support a team.

    There are more than enough NFL fans in socal to support 2 teams in LA. What LA doesn’t have is taxpayers willing to subsidize billionaire NFL owners. Any claim of “lack of fan support” is just ignorant.

  15. Jonogre…it’s just a stupid idea. As for regular paying fans that will go to games, that is a whole other story. I think you believe it’s a cute idea, but soccer rules London. Very few people play of even know the rules of American football. I know we live in the Oprah age where people think you can do anything, but football and basketball in London are easily two of the dumbest ideas currently proposed right now.

    Part of the reason MLS even has a chance here is because of the huge youth soccer phenomenon in America. If that didn’t exist, mls wouldn’t exist.

  16. As for LA and football, we’ve officially entered crazy town. Two teams left LA already because they couldn’t make it. What more evidence do you need that football won’t work there? They’ve had big groups get together to build a stadium and put a team there. Several times, it’s fallen through. They’re not stupid. They’ve done the studies and run the numbers. It’s not going to happen.

  17. @ Roger

    What’s your experience in London? I’ve spent much of the last 16 years there on business and I know for a fact you are wrong about London.

  18. The Rams and Raiders left LA for 1 reason and 1 reason only, St. Louis and Oakland forked over $100s millions of taxpayer money. Rams and Raiders had better attendance in LA than either have now. Thems the facts.

  19. Reasons why London will NEVER work:

    1) High UK tax rates on any players earning salary for a London-based team. Also any visiting players will have to have UK taxed income for that one game they visit. Try appeasing the NFLPA or massaging the CBA/salary cap agreement with this headache!

    2) Travel time/jetlag…Always hear these pro-London apologists state how “oh its fine, its only a 6 hour flight from NY or Baltimore, etc”…Thanks east coast bias…its at least a 9+ hour flight for West coast teams!

    3) Pro Football Talk mentioned another reason: teams often try out players during the middle of the week prior to a game either to light a fire under an underperforming player or to prep their players for an opponent (i.e. having a left-footed punter come in to give their PR prep time to get used to the different spin of the ball). This raises the question of how are you going to fly in player(s) during the week across an ocean and the costs that this would rack up? Stateside teams would of course have an advantage on a London team simply for the fact of easier access to a talent pool of unsigned pro football payers which is unavailable at short notice in the UK.

  20. It’s possible that John Ogre covered this (I believe he already has): the Farmers Field project is 100% privately financed. Another team that could be on their way to L.A. is the Raiders. There’s talk of either a new stadium or a renovated O.co stadium. Someone can correct me if I am wrong… However, I don’t think that there has been a lot of news about the Raiders getting a new or renovated stadium as of late. My guess is that the Raiders will be back in L.A. next year if the Farmers Field project or the stadium in the City of Industry continues to progress well and the Rams will be back in L.A. in time for the 2015 NFL season. As for the Chargers, I think that they will either stay in San Diego with a renovated Qualcomm Stadium (hopefully Spanos will smarten up and put more than $100 million of his own money towards a project like this) or they will move to San Antonio (which is doubtful as the Cowboys & Texans would probably block any relocation attempts by any team to relocate into S.A.). I don’t think that London will ever get an NFL team for the reasons that Taxman listed.

    What do the rest of you think?

  21. I think that calling Farmers Field “100% privately financed” is dead wrong:


  22. There are a number of NFL ready stadiums in London already, Wembley for one will host 2 International Series games for the next three seasons and will draw in excess of 80,000 games (from all across Europe) for each of those games. IF the Rams were to move to London (and I don’t think they will) the obvious option woudl be to move in with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The Emirates is a 60,000 seater stadium with excellent (read expensive) corporate facilities.

    The draw for the rest of Europe to attend would still be there and with only 8 home games guaranteed each season the scheduling would be relatively easy, and lets be honest andy play off games could be moved to Wembley to accomodate even more fans.

    Still not gonna happen though.

  23. @ Jognogre and Roger C

    London is a World City with excellent transport links to the rest of Europe. The Internationl Series games shows there is a massive appetite for the NFL in the UK and Europe. Would there be enough to support a permanent franchise? I don’t know but with innovative scheduling (2 home games followed by 2 away games perhaps) travelling could be kept to a minimum.

  24. I get 30 mbps download on my cable, sir, maybe you should check with the bordello’s IT before you check in.