The Los Angeles talk is back, and this latest round of it will not please local fans of the St. Louis Rams, emphasis on St. Louis. Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com predicts that the Rams will be playing the 2014 season in L.A. And why is that? Let's take a look.
LaCanfora's piece at CBSSports.com centers around the idea that the league is very serious about getting a team in L.A. very quickly. Pick your insider opinion. Albert Breer of the NFL Network has said that while the league wants football in L.A. it is no hurry to force the issue.
Ok, everyone here should already be plenty familiar with the Edward Jones Dome lease situation. The Rams and the Convention and Visitors Commission are currently in arbitration to reconcile the CVC's $124 million plan with the team's $700 million plan. The results of that process could go a long way toward determining the Rams' future in St. Louis.
Here's the crux of what LaCanfora has to say about the Rams' situation:
Still, several high-ranking league sources believe Kroenke would love to be in the Southern California market, and, should the arbitrator rule the Edward Jones Dome requires a half-billion or more in upgrades, they wonder if the sides work out a deal for the Rams to split after this season rather than play through what would be an ignoble lame-duck final season in St. Louis. They also mention, however, that Kroenke can be very difficult to strike a deal with when it comes to negotiating with either of the two parties currently trying to build an L.A. stadium.
We'll get to the dueling stadium proposals in a minute, but I want to speak to something LaCanfora said a paragraph prior to that one.
Owner Stan Kroenke has ties to L.A., the team still has an office in the area, and Kroenke has been noncommittal at best about any long-term future in Missouri.
Kroenke has strong ties to Missouri as well. Depending on how you define "ties" the same could be said about any number of states where his THF Realty company, Kroenke's day job, owns and manages properties. THF Realty is also involved in the Union Station redevelopment plan in downtown St. Louis. As far as the noncommittal part goes, well, that's just Kroenke. The man never makes verbal commitments; he just does things.
With negotiations happening, he really cannot say much either way lest it undermine the Rams position. Think about it, he postures too much to the CVC, and he can't get a favorable deal. He postures too much toward L.A. and the city could just be done with it altogether without having to go through the arbitration dance, and expense, for a year.
Really, this gets to the heart of the problem with all the talk about the Rams going to L.A. Yes, it could happen, many things could happen, but the insider reporters citing insider sources are going on much of the same speculation about the Rams and Kroenke that the average talk radio caller is cribbing from.
Something else to watch with the arbitration plan is how it impacts the Rams' revenues at the Dome. Thanks to the NFL's unique brand of socialism, it is almost impossible for teams to operate in the red. That said, tickets sales and local revenue can still carry a wallop for owners whose stadium is not selling out or stuffing suits into its suites.
The problem with the AEG proposal in L.A. is that it is not a good deal for current owners because AEG wants a big slice of the money both in the form of partial ownership and control of the building. In other words, Kroenke might be able to make more money off the stadium in St. Louis than with AEG's preferred arrangement.
Los Angeles' other stadium plan, Ed Roski's parcel of land outside the city, has its own faults as well, namely the desire to own a share of a team at a cut rate.
Based on the feelings of fans around this web site, the Rams could win 15 games this season. We know that is not going to happen, but they should still improve thanks to a big commitment from ownership in the hiring of Jeff Fisher as well as better team health and a heaping helping of offseason additions. That should translate to more fan interest, i.e. ticket sales, in 2012.
With attendance on the uptick, it will be harder to convince the league to let the team flee to L.A. Though it might be easier to generate more public support for a Dome fix with a winning team and a reinvigorated fan base. Think about that.
Don't bet against Missouri politicians experiencing a foxhole conversion over public dollars for a stadium project when/if push comes to shove and the Rams do threaten to leave.
For now, fans in St. Louis and Los Angeles have more than enough circumstantial evidence at their disposal to argue either way, which is a roundabout way of saying anything could happen and the insiders are no more knowledgeable about this situation than the outsiders.