LOS ANGELES: When NFL owners looked at the potential revenue boost from a game-changing super stadium in the US entertainment capital Los Angeles, all the St. Louis Rams supporters and stadium plans meant nothing.
A 30-2 vote of team owners Tuesday sent the Rams back to the Southern California city, where they had spent 49 seasons before going to St. Louis in 1994 and where they will play again next season before their new 70,000-seat stadium is completed in 2019.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s vision of a $1.86 billion complex with shops, restaurants and attractions built near the old Hollywood Park race track and the renovated former home arena of the NBA Los Angeles Lakers in Inglewood was an offer the NFL could not refuse.
The project could eventually cost $2 billion and also set the stage for future facilities that produce year-round revenues beyond sports.
“This is a project we think is not only going to change not only NFL sports stadiums and complexes but sports complexes around the world,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “It’s going to set a new bar for all of sports.
“The ownership personally believes the project in Hollywood Park is the kind of project that is going to make us successful in Los Angeles long-term, The kind of stadium, the kind of facility that would bring a new kind of fan experience to Los Angeles.”
Kroenke’s project was selected over a stadium plan that would have sent the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders to LA in a shared venue.
Now one of those teams could join the Rams as a co-builder or tenant in the megastadium that the NFL sought for a return to LA.
“He’s giving us the opportunity with his great project to do what we need to do in Los Angeles,” said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. “This was not a vote against St. Louis, which is a great city. There can be opportunity there.”
‘There will be life without the Rams’
St. Louis, losing an NFL team for the second time in 27 years after the Cardinals’ earlier departure to Arizona, had $400 million in taxpayer funding for a stadium on the table. It might as well have been a child’s piggy bank.
“It looks very clear we weren’t even a consideration from the beginning,” St. Louis mayor Francis Slay said. “There will be life without the Rams here in St. Louis, I can assure you that.” Slay said he had “no appetite” for trying to lure another NFL team to his city, decrying what he called NFL dishonesty in relocation bidding practices.
Missouri governor Jay Nixon warned that the fallout could put the NFL in trouble with supporters nationwide and it is their money and interest that keeps the NFL the highest revenue sports league in the world.
“It is troubling that the league would allow for the relocation of a team when a home market has worked in good faith and presented a strong and viable proposal,” said Nixon. “This sets a terrible precedent not only for St. Louis but for all communities that have loyally supported their NFL franchises.
“St. Louis is a world-class city deserving of a world-class NFL team. We will review the NFL’s decision thoroughly before determining what next steps to take. In particular, we are interested in their justification for departing so significantly from the NFL’s guidelines after St. Louis had, in record time, presented a proposal for a first-class stadium.”
Goodell recognized there would be hurt feelings in St. Louis even as a delay was imposed in the move plans for San Diego and Oakland that might offer last gasp hopes for stadium projects there.
“We were unsuccessful in being able to get the kind of facilities we wanted to get done in their home markets, so the excitement we feel in getting the Rams back to Los Angeles is balanced by the disappointment we feel in not being able to get it done in San Diego, St Louis and Oakland,” Goodell said.