Talking about the NFL in Los Angeles is probably not at the top of the list of talking points for St. Louis Rams fans, except for the fans in L.A. Reticence to discuss the NFL's constant back-and-forth with the country's second largest market aside, the West Coast conversation is happening again with two open stadium projects there and a recent memo on the process from commissar Roger Goodell.
Sam Farmer from the LA Times explored the topic this week, breaking down the situation based on the key issues around the topic.
There really isn't much new in Farmer's article. He does point to the Rams as the most likely L.A.-bound franchise, but as a matter of default when asked to name a lead horse in the race. The Rams are an obvious choice because they could potentially be out of their lease on the Edward Jones Dome following the 2014 season.
The situation in St. Louis will get a little clearer once arbitration between the Rams and the CVC runs its course at the end of the year. How far apart the two sides are will be a key tell on how easily the situation can be resolved.
Arbitration may very well not work out between the CVC and the Rams; I personally don't think it will. The CVC's latest offer is estimated to be under $200 million, a mere $500 million south of the Rams' vision for a first-tier facility. That would not end the process for renovating the Dome or finding another home in the St. Louis area. As Farmer noted, a pair of empty lots in Los Angeles scared the shit of a tough talking Minnesota state legislature when things came down to the wire on the Vikings' stadium. Never underestimate the fealty of elected leaders in the face of billion dollar corporations.
Dueling stadium projects in Los Angeles might be the biggest hurdle. In the most basic terms, developer Ed Roski is telling prospective L.A. owners, "I control 600 acres in City of Industry. Come build the stadium I've proposed, at your expense, and the land is yours. Oh, and sell me a piece of your team at market price."
Roski's competitor, AEG, is saying: "We'll build a downtown stadium and upgrade the convention center. Come play here - and sell Philip Anschutz a piece of your team at a discount price - and we guarantee you'll make big bucks."
Of course, desperation could make for big changes in getting a team into either one of those spots. There's also the likelihood that California holds out for an expansion team down the road.
The Rams are making a substantial, notable investment in growing their fan base in St. Louis and throughout the region. Each charity fun run, Habitat for Humanity house, expanded television coverage for preseason games and major moves to improve the product on the field will make it much harder for the team to simply shut out the lights and walk away.
Never forget that the possibility for relocation exists, but don't lose any sleep over it and don't buy into radio hosts and old fashioned print columnists ginning up ratings reading in between lines that just aren't there.