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NFL Study Of St. Louis Market Released, Raises Concerns About Ability To Capture Wealthiest Bracket

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It's all about the money. More specifically, it's about the wealthiest fans' money.

In February, the NFL commissioned a study (from Conventions, Sports & Leisure International) to gauge some important financial aspects of the St. Louis market and the region as a whole as it pertains to the ongoing effort from Governor Jay Nixon's task force to finalize a plan to build an NFL stadium on the St. Louis riverfront.

The St. Louis Business Journal obtained a copy of the EXSUM (pdf available here), used for discussion of the study itself, which offers some legitimate concerns about the market for fans hoping to retain the Rams in St. Louis or attract another NFL franchise should they leave.

Squeezing the top

At the core of the study was the question of whether or not (although the only acceptable answer to the league and the other owners of course would only be "how") a new stadium would be able to ferret out more money from it's wealthiest patrons.

The responses aren't heartening for St. Louis fans per the Journal's report (emphasis mine):

When informed of the price of a license, which ranges from $500 to $40,000, not all current season ticket holders were committed to spending in a new stadium.

Twenty-eight percent of current premium buyers said they would not follow through on purchases. That group represents $95 million in license revenue, according to the study.

Sixty-three percent of current occasional ticket buyers would not follow through on purchases. And 29 percent of season ticket holders would not follow through.

Just consider the range of those licenses. Half a g up to 40k. The NFL, the Rams and the city of St. Louis know who butters their bread.

Regional economy tapped out

This is one area I was interested in not being in/from/around St. Louis to have a good feeling of the overall direction of its economy, as it pertains specifically to their corporate class.

Not only is the magnitude of wealth important as detailed above, but the population size is as well. Here also is less than positive news for St. Louis-backers:

The market lacks a robust regional area from which to draw individuals and corporations that are not already attending games and purchasing tickets.

Ouch.

So not only might you lose a chunk of your key clientele, you wouldn't even have a population pool from which to replace them. Of course, this isn't something the Rams can actually fix in and of themselves, unlike perhaps the personal seat license (PSL) projection.

Inability/Unwillingness to support bad teams

Of course this is the excuse, fair or not, that has to be provided as a caveat to these kinds of numbers and statements. The Rams were abjectly horrendous for a five-year stretch from 2007 to 2011 sandwiched by a pair of three-year runs of mediocrity. That tends to affect popularity and the consumer's willingness to spend their money to support as much. Still, the study did show that while the underperformance of the franchise in the last decade has no doubt ripped away at their financial opportunities, past support and cross-sport support does factor in positively:

Current support of the (St. Louis) Cardinals and past support of the Rams (1995 to 2005) indicates that the St. Louis market can and will commit to a successful team playing in a venue that offers quality fan amenities...

...Although the market generated enough PSL revenue to bring the franchise to St. Louis, that level of support was not sustained once the team's on-field success waned.

And that's the real issue.

The team's done poorly (I'm being nice). With a franchise like the Cardinals, it's easy to lose direct support in an era like the one the Rams have experienced since the end of the Greatest Show on Turf. The question is sustainability.

Would the Los Angeles area support the team proportionally in a similar situation? After moving to Anaheim Stadium in 1980, the Rams enjoyed a strong decade making the playoffs seven of the 10 years in the '80s. Had they not moved, would LA have been able to support them throughout the 1990s during which the Rams didn't have a winning season until the 1999 birth of the GSOT?

And what about the market compared to other markets besides Los Angeles, current NFL tenants or not? Again, this isn't a St. Louis versus Los Angeles situation for the league. This is a matter of the independent quality of the market. If they believe the city of St. Louis and the larger metro area is capable of supporting a franchise as well as many of the current NFL cities on the map and better than many of those who don't have a team, would it be worth it to risk the 21st-largest market in the US once again?

Per the Journal, Peacock declined to share the full study and stated that NFL officials assured him the St. Louis market is in good standing with the league.

The NFL conducted a similar study, albeit from a much smaller response size, in October on the Los Angeles market. No such documents have been made public.

Stay tuned (as if I have to tell you...).