Real estate developer buys real estate, everybody freaks out that Rams are moving to L.A.

Omigod omigod the owner of the St. Louis Rams bought a parking lot! A parking lot in Los Angeles! You know what this must mean!

Los Angeles has been without an NFL franchise since the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season. Although relocating a franchise would be fraught with challenges, and the L.A. market repeatedly has been used as leverage to get stadium deals done in other cities, this is the first time an NFL owner has bought a piece of land in the L.A. area capable of accommodating a stadium.

“Fraught with challenges” is a bit of an understatement. First off, getting land in L.A. isn’t a problem — at this point L.A. has more proposed stadium locations than you can shake a stick at — but rather the money to build a stadium, which has been a bit of a sticking point. Second, as the L.A. Times notes way down in its article (which is headlined, “A return of L.A. Rams? Owner is said to buy possible stadium site”), the 60-acre site that Kroenke bought “is probably too small to fit a stadium and the required parking.”
So what’s going on here? Kroenke, don’t forget, is now on a year-to-year lease in St. Louis after opting out of his old deal when it was ruled that the city wasn’t keeping the stadium state-of-the-art enough; the only reason to be on a year-to-year lease is to try to extort money for a new stadium by threatening to leave town, and buying land in another city is certainly a good way to rattle sabers. Or, it could just be that Kroenke, whose wife is a Wal-Mart heiress, saw that Wal-Mart was putting up some land for sale in an area that is hot (the L.A. Forum is on one side and wants to expand, and the old Hollywood Park racetrack site, marked for redevelopment, is on the other) and saw a chance to make a killing at an insider price. Or both. Or it could be omigod omigod the Rams are coming back to L.A., but don’t hold your breath on that one just yet.

33 comments on “Real estate developer buys real estate, everybody freaks out that Rams are moving to L.A.

  1. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke could have made a major move toward bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles?

  2. In fairness, if the Bay Area can reasonably support two professional football teams, then LA could easily do the same.

  3. If Green Bay can support an NFL team, then so can pretty much anywhere. When you only need to sell 500,000 tickets a year and all your TV money is national, market size isn’t much of a factor.

  4. Kei, the Bay Area actually can’t support two teams. The Raiders have been a perennial attendance dud, they can’t sell luxury suites and PSLs, and they have to this day more fans in LA than they do in the Bay Area. They never recovered from missteps both in the early 80′s and then after they came back to the Bay Area.

    It actually wouldn’t surprise me to see them make a return to LA in the future as the second team.

  5. Green Bay is an anomaly.

    According to ESPN’s attendance section, there were seven teams that couldn’t sell 500,000 tickets. Buffalo and Minnesota each had a “home” game in London but would have otherwise made 500K. Chicago, Arizona, Pittsburgh (!!!) , Tampa Bay, Oakland, Jacksonville and St. Louis are the others. Jacksonville also had a home game in London, but they weren’t going to do 500K regardless.

    Of course, I will also admit this list seems fishy…Chicago and Pittsburgh consistently sell out; I can’t believe they’re at #26 and #30 respectively.

  6. Jason:

    The NFL reports tickets scanned in its attendance reports. The Steelers sold every ticket, for example, but people often stayed home (or failed to scalp online) when the weather was bad or the team was struggling early.

  7. The updated Soldier Field’s capacity is only 61,500 which is why the Chicago attendance is so low. It would certainly still sell out with a higher capacity.

  8. Take this as a big time sign the Rams are coming back to LA. This is the same site the NFL approved for Al Davis years ago but Davis said no and moved back to Oakland when the NFL wanted him to share with a 2nd NFL team.

    With the Racetrack closed and the other side of Hollywood Park being developed for retail and housing this site of 60 acres is perfect for a NFL stadium. The 49ers built on a 22 acre site in Santa Clara with no issues. The Forum and the new retail/commercial complex where the Racetrack sits now can provide ample parking for games.

    St. Louis and Missouri will not pay 700M to keep the Rams and Kroenke knows it full well. He has given up on them and is ready to move the team to LA. Kroenke cannot privately finance a stadium in St. Louis in that small market.

    Remember, the NFL wanted to shoot down the move to St. Louis years ago because they deemed in 1995 “unsuitable” for the NFL but Georgia Frontiere threatened an anti-trust lawsuit and got her way.

    This site makes sense for numerous reasons:
    1. The Rose Bowl just got approvals to temporarily host a NFL team. The Rams can tarp 30K of seats to bring down the sellout # to 60k or so for a few years.

    2. The value of the team will jump from 875M to 1.2B easily therefore the new equity covers the relocation fee. Kroenke has the money anyways but if he wanted to could sell a piece of the team to a minority investor to cover this.

    3. Kroenke, unlike Farmers Field and the Industry proposals does not have to sell a majority stake in the team to a developer as part of the deal. He can privately finance the place with PSLs, naming rights, Luxury box sales, his own money, and minority investors. In a big market like LA that should be pretty easy.

    4. The site sits on a parking lot as is therefore minimal cleanup will be needed to build on the site, much like the 49ers in Santa Clara where they built in 2 years from groundbreaking.

    The question now is if the San Diego Chargers jump in on this. Their stadium situation is horrendous and they have out clauses as well. They right now have TV rights over LA, they would get fans no problem there and could split the costs with the Rams.

    The Rams and Chargers were LA’s original teams. It would be unreal to see them share at Hollywood Park. As a Niners fan it would be great to see the old LA Rams-SF 49ers west coast rivalry renewed.

  9. The San Diego stadiumi is “horrendous”? Does that mean it is unsafe? Or it just doesn’t have all the bells and whistles paid for by taxpayers?

  10. 60 acres is NOT too small. Levi’s stadium and parking is on less than 40 acres. Qualcomm stadium is on a 63 acre piece of land that was going to have a stadium, hotel, shopping center, residential, and a 8 to 10 acre park.

    The Rams and Chargers are going to move back to LA and share a stadium, this is obvious to anyone paying attention. Neither team will get squat from the taxpayers in St. Louis or San Diego.

    Each team can get at least $200 to $250 million in PSL sales plus the NFL will float 2 G-5 (you know it’s coming) loans worth $250 million each. There’s a billion dollars, add in naming rights, vending rights, and adjacent land development and you’ve more than paid for the stadium. Plus both owners can pocket luxury suite money.

    Relocation fees are negligible, if there are any. NFL has never charged relocation fees for a team returning to their previous home or moving within their current TV market.

    This will be a copy of the Jets/Giants model.

  11. correction: Qualcomm is 166 acres. The 2005 proposal had 63 acres going to residential, 40 acres for park, shopping center, and Hotel with about 60 left for the stadium and parking.

  12. IF the rams and chargers both move to LA, where does that leave the raiders? I figured they would move back to LA too. Would they ever share a stadium with the 49ers? Hard to see Oakland build them a new stadium.

  13. It leaves the Raiders SOL. Oakland will never build them a stadium and they don’t want to share with the Niners (as they’d cement themselves as second class also rans in the region). Which is why I still think they’re one of the two front runners to go back to LA. They never stopped being an “LA” team when they moved back to Oakland, and they never became a Bay Area team again. Their fanbase in the Bay Area is pretty thin.

  14. I went on the Ram’s SB Nation site. Seemed like no one even cared, lol. A few guys acted like they would help them pack.

    I think they would start to sweat if the Cardinals tried to leave. I don’t think they’d even hesitate to fund a new ballpark if asked to do so.

  15. @Roger

    Rams’ SB nation site is deleting posts and threads left and right.

    The Cards actually covered most of the costs of their new stadium. Everyone except for STL Rams fans know voters wont approve the public funds needed to keep the Rams in STL.

    It’s cheaper to move back to LA and split the costs of a shared stadium.

  16. John, you state “The Cards actually covered most of the costs of their new stadium”

    The Sports Facility Report for NFL at https://law.marquette.edu/assets/sports-law/pdf/nfl-2013.pdf states that the stadium was 100% publicly funded.

    Please explain your assertion.

    Thanks.

  17. Sigh. All these pie in the sky plans for Los Angeles stadiums are thrilling, as always. It’s been 20 years of “guaranteed” moves likes the ones above, dreams of avarice, the thrill and drama of us repeatedly whipping the public into shape and taking their dough with impunity, and a trail of new palatial stadiums across the land built on the back of our ever-imminent move to L.A.

    And yet, reading those comments above I find that those dreams somehow depress me. It would be so much more fun to do our usual dog and pony scare show and extort a huge pile of public stadium cash from the good taxpaying suckers, er, fans, in the St. Louis area, rather than to just ride back to Los Angeles and spend a chunk of OUR money to give the lavish gift of pro football to those tight bastards, who never offer us up so much as a nickel to donate to our impoverished billionaire’s stadium fund!

    And frankly, as a dues-paying member of the Club of 32, why should I vote to give that lucrative market to Stan with the funny last name I can’t pronounce, unless I get to wet my beak too?

  18. For the record, the Cards paid about two-thirds of their stadium costs:

    http://www.fieldofschemes.com/2003/12/23/198/cards-to-finance-own-share-of-stadium/

  19. Why Kronke did this is simple: it’s a win-win.
    If St Louis refuses to build him a new stadium on their dollar, he builds a new stadium in Inglewood and moves the team there, and possibly rents it out to another team to share with him. If St Louis gives in and agrees to a horrifying stadium deal (which I think they will, considering we have yet to see a single city do otherwise), he gets a free stadium there, and then develops the Inglewood land and sells the houses + rents out the buildings/apartments/condos for top dollar. No matter what, he will make a LOT of money from this.

  20. “(which I think they will, considering we have yet to see a single city do otherwise)”

    That’s only sort of true. Believe Bob Lanier was the mayor of Houston when Bud Adams said basically ‘Build me a new stadium or else.’ Lanier looked at the schools, police, roads. etc. and thought he could put public money to better use. Adams got a deal from the people of Tennessee and the Oilers left town.

    It was only after the Oilers left that (some) the people of Houston decided they’d liked football after all. So they ponied up a huge chunk of change (the majority of which I believe is from hotel and rental car taxes… so ‘people from out of town’) for Bob McNair and built Reliant Stadium. By the way, looked at some of McNair’s campaign donations and he loves giving money to tax-hating Tea Party candidates. Strange that he has no problem with taxes when they benefit him (at least I don’t think he’s ever asked Houston to not collect tax money for his stadium).

    Anyway, Houston did once tell an NFL owner to get lost.

  21. Neil your numbers are laughable.

    Replacement of an interstate ramp in not a stadium construction cost. Did you pay for and construct the road in front of your home, the sewer hook up and the rest of the infrastructure required? You didn’t.

    Tax breaks are at best debatable.

  22. If I were asking the state to replace a highway ramp just so I could use it, then yeah, that would be a subsidy.

    And tax expenditures are costs like any other. What’s debatable about them?

  23. Neil, I like your site but you come off as a fringe wing nut when you bundle absolutely everything into one total stadium costs. No accountant worth a damn would pull this crap. You damage your credibility.

    You need to itemize each expense/cost and discuss them on their own merits. At least separate construction costs, infrastructure costs, and tax breaks if you want people to take you seriously. Your discussion of tax breaks needs to include related tax revenue to tell the whole story.

    You think no one but people attending Cardinal games uses that highway ramp? That’s laughable wing nut talk.

  24. Um, I did itemize the costs. That’s how come you know that the state money went toward the highway ramp. If we’re going to talk about “percentage of total costs” that were spent by the public vs. the team, though, then we have to have a single denominator. (If you prefer to say “the Cardinals paid for three-quarters of stadium construction, and the state chipped in $42.7 million additional for infrastructure,” that’s equally accurate.)

    Also, I’m obligated to note that calling someone a “wing nut” is against the house rules about no personal attacks in comments. I can take it when it’s directed at me, but want to be clear that it’s not okay for commenters to target each other this way. (Calling someone’s argument “wingnuttery” is okay, though. Criticize the post, not the person posting.)

  25. Assigning the $42.7 million to the stadium is completely wrong. The on ramp is not assignable to the stadium because the percentage of use cannot be determined.

    You’re doing the same thing that stadium proponents do when they try to assign every random bit of revenue in a city to a stadium or superbowl.

  26. @John “The on ramp is not assignable to the stadium because the percentage of use cannot be determined.”

    Ignoring the fact that you seem to be arguing that if something is not 100% it should be assigned a value of 0%, it would appear that the construction of the new ramp, and the destruction of the old ramp, was only necessary to build the new stadium:

    “First, state highway crews would tear down an on-ramp to eastbound Highway 40 (Interstate 64). The ramp is sitting near where seats behind home plate are to be built. The new stadium would be built 50 feet from the highway – less than the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.”

    http://www.cardsclubhouse.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=296

  27. “Did you pay for and construct the road in front of your home, the sewer hook up and the rest of the infrastructure required? You didn’t.”

    Actually, John, your statement is entirely false. As someone with a background in home building, I can assert that you as a buyer do pay for the cost of curbs/gutters/sidewalks, your share of service line installations, the full cost of the individual service connection to your lot and myriad other charges (land surveys etc) as part of the cost of the lot your home is built on.

    You don’t see these charges because the developer folds them into the cost of the lot (if you are allowed to buy the serviced land, which generally you aren’t unless the developer is in a very jovial mood indeed) and the house built on it.

    Even in small communities where raw land is developed and sold by the municipality itself (too small and variable demand for developers to really make money by taking over the process…), your price for the lot includes all the costs fully attributable to your parcel plus a share of the macro development costs.

    So yes, you do pay for it. Don’t confuse the fact that you don’t see individual bills for each portion with getting them for free.

  28. To be fair to Kroenke… he was, as I recall, a billionaire in his own right before he married Ms. Walton.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with a couple of the posts above. This is a win-win for Kroenke. If Stl doesn’t pony up (and I hope they don’t), he has a site and a team to take to LA. If they do… it’s not like that land is useless absent a stadium.

    I think he’ll have to pay something to get back to LA (Piggy, the Maras and Jerry aren’t going to give it to him for free), but if he wants to be the new LA owner (and possibly rent to someone else as well) he is in prime position to do so (unlike a couple of the other stadium pursuers).

    The only question I have is why St. Louis isn’t playing hardball here. He’s opted out of his lease. Unless he has negotiated some sort of continuation rights, the city does not have to play host to his sad sack team any longer. And the NFL is unlikely to come back to St. Louis again, so there’s no need to prostrate oneself before the ogre. Evict the Rams today.

  29. This is all very interesting but it’s murky to the point we don’t know what will ultimately happen. Basically the Rams are about to get out of the last half to a third of their current lease with StL. A lease that is still very lucrative from a pure liquid profit standpoint. What I see happening in StL is something that was destined to happen eventually being kicked up by a decade or so.

    The question surrounding the issue in St Louis is still being developed. I’m not even a 100% sure the Rams even know what type of a stadium deal they would prefer or the details surrounding where it would be located or what it would look like. I would suspect that a $700M facility not owned by the Rams, meaning they didn’t pony up the majority of the money for, is simply not going to happen- not in StL, LA or anywhere. I would suspect 25-40% publicly financed is the playing field we are looking at. I would also suspect the longer the construction is pushed back the more palatable the idea of public money will become, improved play on the field will help too. The thing I think Kronke is willing to negotiate is time. It doesn’t hurt him to wait 6, 7 or even 10 years to get a new StL stadium built due to the favorable lease terms and it would be in the communities best interest to have as much of the current facility paid off before taking on a new commitment. Essentially the way I read it, assuming negotiating a StL deal is the priority, would be that Stan is using the escape clause as leverage to take care of the stadium issue that was on the horizon anyway knowing he was leaving a solid decade to ultimately work the deal. Certainly he could have just let the lease run out and then he’d have leverage but their is no guarantee that the LA market would still be open and the threat wouldn’t be nearly as great. Plus new lease terms would have to be agreed on and this would likely mean a significant raise in cost. Right now the cost is low and the threat is high- higher still with a plumb piece of LA real estate in the ‘ole portfolio.

    The other side of this equation would be: that the profit in LA is too great to pass up, even at the expense of being viewed as a skunk in your home state. Obviously, LA isn’t going to do one thing to help the team relocate there and in all likelihood do plenty of things that actually make it harder- see the reason Stan was able to get this land from Walmart. Certainly it isn’t impossible but will come with a high price. In just terms of a single football team, I don’t think it would be a wise investment of capital given the time it would take to get it on a paying basis. Now the 2nd NFL tenant concept is a little more viable and I could see it happening but certainly no owner is going to want to give him a sweatheart deal and I believe it would be sticky due to the fact that neither the SD or OAK ownership would be willing/able to stake the capital upfront. That brings you back to the time factor issue on the return on investment. Certainly the Rams moving back to LA is financially possible but the profit of the move is more intangible than tangible. The notion that they will outright move to LA in 2015 is a fantasy as there is absolutely no profit in such a quick move. Even if Stan were convinced he couldn’t get a deal he will like he would be beyond stupid to cut negotiations off immediately because that would kill whatever leverage he had on the NFL or LA. Even an ultimate move to LA is three years out at the quickest. It’s much more likely this process drags out past four years.

    Another thing to consider is Stan has insight into what the League is planning. It is possible that Stan has been told the League is expanding by two teams in the next 10 years. This would explain the necessity for him to play hardball and force his leverage with the current escape clause. It also wouldn’t be too far fetched for him being the front man on a LA stadium development ultimately meant to be turned over to a future ownership group of an LA expansion team. Especially if all he is doing is holding real estate and occasionally leaking plans to increase the urgency in StL. Indeed, the scheduled London games were meant to have a similar effect but were abandoned when they were found to violate the lease and create too much backlash among already stressed ticket holders.

    My view is the a Rams moving back to LA is more of a leverage play than a desire to actually do it. The NFL wants to control the LA market and use it to solidify as many teams as it can. While the threat of teams relocating is helpful for business, teams actually moving ultimately hurt. The LA market isn’t going anywhere and there isn’t much fire to get a team there before TV contacts come up for renewal. We’re probably looking at a new team in LA in a decade. I see a team being awarded to London and LA. There is an outside chance of a 2nd LA team but I believe that will most likely be the Raiders instead of an expansion team. Certainly the Rams could wind up there but there would that would require a lot of things happening that I see as unlikely. I see the threat building and things coming to a head next winter with a eleventh hour agreement to get to the negotiation table where ultimately terms are secured for a long term StL stadium project, braking ground somewhere around 2020.