Fans in St. Louis can breath a little easier this week, or at least ignore some of the speculation being peddled about the St. Louis Rams' future here. A group led by Magic Johnson bought the Dodgers, for a stunning $2.15 billion, beating out Rams owner Stan Kroenke. On Thursday night, a report from Jason Cole at Yahoo Sports revealed the downtown stadium project led by AEG, the one known as Farmers Field, is in trouble.
You really need to read all of Cole's article, but the gist of it is that AEG has a flimsy financing plan for the stadium, one that does not pass muster with the NFL. Such a facility may very well be able to pay for itself quick enough, but the league is adamant about its teams and their facilities being on solid financial footing, lest they tear a hole in the hull of the league's bottom line.
No movement from AEG has allowed the city to turn its attention elsewhere, namely to the expansion of the convention center, which one source in Cole's article says was the goal all along. On top of that, the city of LA has projects with USC and NBC Universal waiting in the queue. In short, the momentum for a downtown LA stadium may have evaporated like a Rams' scoring drive in the red zone.
The issues surrounding Farmers Field gets at something Bernie Miklasz said in a piece for the PD earlier this week. Getting pro football back to LA is a strange political issue, mixing the wants and desires of one of the county's biggest entertainment businesses with the politics of a big city, a big city that also happens to be the home of almost all other American entertainment businesses.
The advantages of a vacant LA market have been cited ad nauseum in conversations about getting stadiums built in other cities, including and especially St. Louis. Using the Farmers Field project to push the convention center expansion offers a fine example of how other entities can use the issue to their gain.
And, quite frankly, let's face it, beyond the short-term economic boost of a billion dollar construction project, the long-term economic advantages of a professional sports team and its facility are subject to debate.
None of this takes away from the small PR disaster incurred by the Rams as a result of Kroenke's bid for the Dodgers playing out against the backdrop of a delicate stadium lease negotiation.
In hindsight, it was foolish to automatically assume Kroenke buying the Dodgers was a natural leap toward taking the Rams to Southern California. It sure did line up well from the outside, cross ownership rules, a natural site for an NFL stadium and the Dome lease situation. Circumstantial evidence or not, it was still just speculation.
I jumped in on the speculation earlier this week as the sale of the Dodgers reached its end point. It was always pretty clear that it was just my opinion, but it was still irresponsible. This site reaches more than a million football fans every month, and while we may not be a traditional news outlet, we still have a responsibility to be fair.
The Rams, or St. Louis rather, is not out of the woods yet. The team's COO Kevin Demoff has assured me and anyone else in the media who will stop jumping to conclusions long enough to listen that the Rams are not ready to leave the market, though anything could happen in a delicate stadium negotiation like the one now occurring over the Edward Jones Dome.
The likelihood for the Rams to make an LA exodus certainly got much slimmer this week.